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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Ashley Duncan

Recent Posts by Ashley Duncan:

Self-Care for Women: Six Elements of Well-Being

GettyImages-1159495308There seems to be an expectation that women are supposed to do it all and not complain. That women are supposed to be wives and mothers, work full time, juggle friendships, have a social life, have time for themselves, so on. Society is ever changing, and we are supposed to keep up with it. Let’s rewind some years ago where most women stayed at home with their children, and taking care of their household was their only responsibility.

I will be the first to tell you that I have lived through both scenarios. I have been a stay-at-home mom and I have been a working-full-time mom. Neither comes without difficulties, but both come with such reward.

As women, the biggest and most important healthy relationship we can have is with ourselves. If we are not taking care of ourselves, it becomes incredibly difficult for us to take care of others. Can we do it? Of course! But at some point, we have to stop and ask ourselves, “At what price is it worth sacrificing our mental and physical health?”

The goal of this blog isn’t to sit here and say that you shouldn’t be a stay-at-home mom, you shouldn’t be a full-time working mom, or you shouldn’t be the only one to do everything. I understand that every woman’s situation and life is different and there is no one-size-fits-all. The goal of this blog is to encourage, uplift, and provide some new tools for you.

The Six Elements of Well-Being

While studying my recent certification with Girls Gone Strong, I came across the Six Elements of Well-Being, which inspired me to write this blog. I am a firm believer that taking care of your mental health serves a higher purpose than anything else.

Let’s dive into these elements as well as a call to action!

Positive Emotions

Emotions are “action blueprints” that tell us how to react and behave in situations. It’s important to understand that although our emotions might be good and bad, all emotions we feel are essential. As women we tend to focus more on what is “wrong” with our lives and even our bodies instead of focusing on what is right. Positive emotions don’t stick around as long as negative emotions. It’s important for us to fill our bank with positive affirmations by practicing them often.

Action: Record one thing you are grateful for each day.

Engagement (Flow)

Being “in the zone” is a term that a lot of us can relate to. You become fully engaged in the task at hand. Time slows down or comes to a stop, and nothing can pull you away from the flow of what you’re doing. Staying engaged is what keeps us going. Think about what you are naturally good at; what you do to build a routine around that is going to be fulfilling. “Health is about abundance—seeking out things that make us feel ‘fuller’ as human beings.”

Action: Find your favorite hobby or hobbies and carve out time to do them.

Relationships

Remember earlier when I stated that the most important healthy relationship we can be in is the one with ourselves? Well, let’s dive into that a little more.

As humans we are social beings and we rely on relationships. As women we give care or reach out to others as a way of lowering our stress levels. By being in strong, safe, and secure relationships, we allow ourselves to be healthier in all ways, which provides us the confidence we need to meet life challenges.

Action: Write a positive letter to yourself.

Meaning and Purpose

I’m sorry to tell you, but I don’t have the answer to the meaning of life. But I can say that having meaning in life means being connected to something greater than ourselves. Meaning and purpose can come from anywhere, and having meaning is crucial for our health and well-being.

Action: Write a list of what makes you happy and fulfilled.

Achievement

We need goals!

Let me say that louder.

WE NEED GOALS!!

Having long and short-term goals helps us stay connected to what we are pursuing in our lives. Having goals is an important aspect for our well-being and what helps bring satisfaction to our lives.

Action: Write a self-care goal and do it!

Resilience

Psychological resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or other sources of stress. Some people are naturally resilient, and others are not and that’s okay. Positivity and resilience are skills that you can learn over time by cultivating them.

Action: Write what you feel grateful/hopeful for.

Set Yourself Up for Success

These six elements aren’t the answer to the world’s problems. But they are tools that can help you concentrate on your own well-being so that you can set yourself up for success in all areas of your life.

Take care and appreciate yourself, ladies!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, CPT, Weight Loss Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goals women emotional mental health well-being self-care relationships resilience physical health

Dear Soon-to-Be and New Mommies: You Can Do This!

GettyImages-1060547970Today, the realities of the human body immediately after giving birth are less mysterious than ever, a development some attribute to a changing climate around motherhood. In the past women felt like they couldn’t talk about the after-effects of having a baby, let alone caring for other children at the same time.

Everything Is Different and There Is Pressure from All Directions

People don’t talk about the messy postpartum “situations” that take place, the frustrating and sometimes painful process of figuring out breastfeeding, the wound care necessary for the area the baby came out from, oh and let’s not forget waddling around the house wearing whatever undergarments can hold everything together. And how about the best-kept secret of icepacks!

And how can we forget the added stressors of life in general. Maybe you’re hearing and feeling things like this:

  • Make sure you work out during your pregnancy.
  • Be sure to only gain 25–30 pounds throughout this whole 9 months.
  • Don’t forget to take care of the other kid/kids you have.
  • Please make sure that report is on my desk by 9am tomorrow.
  • Clean the house.
  • Work 40+ hours a week.
  • Make dinner.
  • Drive the older ones to school and sports.

And on and on and on…

DON’T PANIC! It’s natural to feel exhausted and unfamiliar in your new body and new life. From the time you become pregnant to the time that you give birth, each is a new beginning and an exciting chapter in your life.

The mental difficulties of pregnancy and the first few months after giving birth can be more challenging than the physical effects. Your body will begin to change from its previous state back to its new normal: shedding water weight, frequent trips to the bathroom (again), after-birth contractions as the uterus shrinks back down. If you are breastfeeding or not, there will be pain involved. Let’s not forget the hormonal change that will take place. All of this can lead you to having “baby blues” or feelings of postpartum depression. You are trying to adjust to a new life and a new baby, and these stressors can cause low self-esteem and doubt.

Tools for Confidence in the Postpartum Time

Do not give up! You are the same strong woman who just grew a child and gave birth, and you are who you have always been, but now you have someone else to share your strength with. The more you start to believe in yourself, the happier you will feel and be. Some stress relievers that helped me during my “baby blues” moments are the following.

Get Some Fresh Air

Getting outside for fresh air can help lift your mood. There are also many benefits of walking that include stress reducers. Take a walk by yourself, or take that precious new baby out for some fresh air.

Communicate

Having a new baby can make you feel as though you are alone. Making an effort to connect with friends, join a mommy and me group, or reach out to other moms can help you indulge in adult conversation and not feel isolated.

Take Time for Yourself

Ask for help. Making time for yourself will not only allow you a minute to breathe, it will also help you become a better mom by taking care of yourself.

Feel More Secure

Body confidence is typically the first issue that woman deal with after giving birth. Your body has spent the last 9 months stretching to make room for a growing baby. As long as that took, your body needs time to recover. Most of us do not bounce back as quickly as we would like and that’s okay. After having my first child, I felt like I bounced back better than I had anticipated, but the second one made me feel otherwise (and still does!). My body changed so much after having my second child. One of the hardest things for me was not feeling confident and realizing that this is my new body.

Love the Skin You’re In

Even if you don’t have anywhere to go, try to get up and make an effort every morning. Wear your favorite outfit, put on a little bit of makeup. Find a way to feel good about the day at the very beginning.

Make Time for Healthy Eating and Exercise

Probably the hardest of them all are these two! Without a doubt, eating healthy and exercising tend to be the last things on our minds after having given birth. The best advice I can give you is to plan ahead. During those months where nesting sets in and you have energy to get things done like the nursery and shopping, throw meal prepping in there as well so that you’ll have some healthy options ready to eat after the baby comes.

When it comes to exercising, once you are cleared after 6 weeks, start slow and build from there. Try bodyweight exercises, or walks working into a jog/run. When stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, find a friend to join you at the gym, find a class that you can ease intensity into, or join a program geared toward weight loss/strength. Find what fits you and your schedule.

The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love

Well soon-to-be, new, and veteran moms, I am here to tell you that the world is unfair, the jobs we have as mothers will continue to be the hardest jobs we’ll ever have. We will have good days, we will have bad days; we will have days that we want to run, and days when we have conquered the world. There will be days where we ask ourselves why we decided to do this, and days where we doubt every decision we made. It will be a constant cycle, of good, bad, bad, good, and so on.

Whatever situation you are in currently, I can say with confidence that YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS and YOU CAN DO THIS! There is no greater creation than that of a woman. LOVE YOURSELF! TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! and ASK FOR HELP!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To Learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: depression stress walking anxiety bodyweight pregnancy self-care self-esteem postpartum self-confidence

Speaks to the Soul: Music for Better Emotional and Physical Health

GettyImages-1146590025Picture this: You’re sitting in the car, in stop-and-go traffic. Your mood is just shot and all you want to do is get home. Now try this: Turn up the volume on your radio and let the music take over your soul!

According to Harvard Health, music is a fundamental attribute of the human species. All cultures, from the most primitive to the most advanced, make music. And thank goodness they do! As humans we sing, hum, make music with our hands by clapping; we sway our bodies or bob our heads back and forth when a catchy beat comes on; and we even dance to celebrate. Music is essentially wired into us by the sound of our heartbeats.

Music for Happiness

As obvious as it sounds, if you are ever in need of an emotional boost, let it be known that it only takes 15 minutes of listening to your favorite tunes to get a natural high. Your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that leads to increased feelings of happiness, excitement, and joy.

Improved Performance

Scientists have found that when people listen to motivational music, they run faster than those who do not listen to music. The key to enhancing your performance lies in the choice of music that motivates and inspires you to move forward and faster.

Decrease Stress; Increase Health

Sixty percent of illnesses and diseases are caused by stress. To lower your levels of stress means increasing your uptake in music (and other things, but we’re focusing on music right now). Listening to music decreases the levels of cortisol in your body, which counteracts the effects of chronic stress.

During those much-needed breaks from work or even while you are working, play some inspiring, motivating music to help boost your mood and your health.

Sounds of Sleep

Hearing or singing lullabies is known to help children go to sleep. Over 30% of Americans suffer from insomnia. A study showed that listening to classical or relaxing music within an hour of going to bed significantly improves sleep, compared to listening to an audiobook or doing something else before bed.

Motivation Playlist

See how music motivates your fitness professionals at NIFS. We asked Tony, Thomas, Ashley, Lauren, and Tinisi to each name songs that help change their moods, motivate, and help them relax and enjoy the sounds:

Can you guess the songs chosen by each fitness pro?

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To Learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress motivation sleep music happiness emotional performance

Kids Confined: A Parent’s Survival Kit

GettyImages-1216458718(1)In one way or another I think it’s safe to say that the spread of this virus has affected all of us in the last few weeks. And for some, it has become life-changing! As parents of a school-aged kid, my husband and I have had some tough conversations with our kindergartener explaining why he won’t be seeing his friends or teacher at school for a while, if at all. Not only have we had to have tough talks, we’ve had to become pretty creative in how we keep him active and engaged.

Our son, Isaiah, is the definition of energy. In his words, “I’m 100%!” And he means it! He only knows one speed and that is fast. Not only does Isaiah’s energy require creativity, his appetite is comparable to a bottomless pit.

How Are We Thriving Through a Global Pandemic? Two Words: Consistent Creativity!

For a child that is used to having so much structure at school and thriving in that environment, how can you replicate that at home and maintain your “cool parent” status? Here are some tips.

Keep Them Engaged

Finding fun, creative, and engaging educational opportunities for the kiddos to remain sharp is only half the battle. Timing is also critical. Making sure that each day is a little more exciting than the day before is a great way to keep them engaged in learning and being active. 

Let Kids Help Choose Activities

Allowing involvement in the decision making of what we do has been a key as well. This is a great test to see what interests your kids have and what type of learners they are. Are they hands-on? Do they need to see the activity performed first a few times? Or maybe just once? I am learning each day just as he is. 

Build Structure and Choice into Snacks

Our son can eat. If we were to let him choose when and what to eat, he would eat us completely out of the house. Each day he has the choice of three or four snacks (such as fruits, vegetables, yogurts, jello cups, an occasional homemade cookie, a snack-size bag of chips, crackers, fruit popsicles, etc.) along with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We’ve provided that structure and have allowed him the freedom to choose. We are, however, still trying to figure out exactly where he puts all the food.

Creative Ways of Getting Exercise

For an active kid such as him, we’ve had to get even more creative with how he gets his exercise (same goes for us). Some days it consists of timing him to see how fast he can run up the stairs to get a diaper for his sister. Days that the weather isn't cooperating with us, we’re firing up GO Noodle on the Apple TV and dancing to some Zumba. And when the weather is nice enough to be outside, we’re taking walks, running, playing basketball in the driveway, doing sidewalk chalk, or whatever else we can come up with to burn that energy.

We’re All in This Together

We’re all trying to navigate through this crazy time, and the most important thing we can hold onto is that we’re all in this together. I read an Instagram post from Reformed Sports Parent the other day that allowed me to cut myself some slack:

Don’t worry about them regressing in school. Every single kid is in this boat and they all will be okay. When we are back in the classroom, we will all course-correct and meet them where they are. Teachers are experts at this! Don’t pick fights with your kids because they don’t want to do math. Don't scream at your kids for not following the schedule. Don’t mandate 2 hours of learning time if they are resisting it. If I can leave you with one thing, it’s this: at the end of all of this, your kids’ mental health will be more important than their academic skills. And how they felt during this time will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during those 4 or more weeks is long gone. So keep that in mind, every single day.

Stay Healthy!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator and Program Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise at home snacks kids fitness for kids quarantine home learning

Winter Weight Loss and Fitness: Pushing Through the Cold

GettyImages-1125853893There is no debate that it’s easier to make healthier choices and lose weight in the spring and summer months. The sun is shining and warm, the days are longer, and you feel motivated to get outdoors and be active. But when the cold, harsh months of winter come around, all motivation goes out the window. Let’s take a look at ways to keep your motivation high and get over those hurdles of temptation.

Temptation Is All Around

The cold months are full of occasions that bring temptations. Hot chocolate, cookies, cakes, holiday parties, and family and friend gatherings are everywhere. If you’re not careful, it can be easy to slip into the mindset that all indulgences are bad. When you label your food choices as “good” and “bad,” every decision becomes a loaded one. Any time you stray from your eating plan, you might feel a bit of guilt or shame. These emotions can trigger the body’s stress response, and when stress is involved it can set you up for more trouble.

Instead of sweating over the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas,” try making food choices that are right for you. Plan ahead, or maybe choose one small indulgence per day to satisfy your sweet tooth and engage in those fun winter activities.

Come Out of Hibernation and Get Motivated to Exercise

The snow is falling and ice is everywhere. The days are still short and daylight is minimal. Winter itself is enough to tank your motivation to exercise. Who wants to go out into the freezing weather to go for a run or to the gym when you can curl up on the couch with a blanket and be perfectly content? There are tons of ways you can stay active from the comfort of your own home.

  • Stay active while watching your favorite show or movie: Every commercial/intermission, get up and knock out a circuit of 10 pushups, 10 squats, and 10 crunches. Maybe even jog in place until the show comes back on.
  • Use apps: We have cut the cord when it comes to cable. We use our Apple TV, which is just like having an iPhone on your TV. Download an exercising app that you can play on your TV and get a quick 15–20-minute workout.

Keeping up with a fitness routine will help with more than weight loss. The benefit of working out is that it gets oxygen to the cells, keeps your body working, and gets you energized.

Staying Hydrated

It is so easy to indulge in all the sweet, alcoholic seasonal drinks such as eggnog. Don’t forget to make sure you are staying hydrated. Fun fact: According to a 2003 study on the metabolic effects of different water temperatures published by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, when you consume liquids that are colder than your core body temperature, your body has to work to warm it up, and it burns extra calories in the process. So consider drinking ice water instead of hot chocolate!

Drinking water can give your immune system a boost and prevent you from getting sick during peak cold and flu season. Drinking water can also increase your metabolism and help you feel full longer. This in turn could help curb your appetite and enable you to maintain healthy eating habits.

Come Visit Us!

Get bundled up and come and see us. We would love to have you in one of our classes, write a program for you, conduct your assessments, provide training for you, or be here to walk around the track with you. Whatever you need from your staff at NIFS, please ask and let us help set the tone for your 2020!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, NIFS Program and Weight Loss Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS winter fitness fitness center motivation weight loss hydration winter

Gut Check: Digestive Health Boosts Your Immune System

GettyImages-997808980Fall is here and winter is nearly upon us, and that means that cold and flu season have also arrived. Have you noticed that some people just don’t get sick no matter what? Or maybe you have wondered why after being exposed to the same virus, one person gets sick while the other doesn’t.

The answer to that lies in your immune system and how strong it is. When you are exposed to bad bacteria or viruses, it’s up to your immune system to protect you from being infected. If your immune system is strong, your body will fight off the threat of sickness. If you have a weak or compromised immune system, you may end up sick. What you might be surprised to learn is this: The strength of your immune system is highly dependent on the condition of your digestive system.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Let’s Talk Microbes

Microbes live inside your digestive system. They are living organisms that affect your overall health. The protection that some of these organisms provide is beneficial to your immune system. The good bacteria recognize when illness-producing intruders enter your body; the organisms attack the intruders so that you don’t get sick. If you don’t have enough of the good bacteria in your gut, you will be more susceptible to viruses like colds and stomach viruses. You also may be at more risk for autoimmune diseases such as colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.

Although there is a large supply of these good microbes living in your gut, they can easily become diminished. If you have recently taken antibiotics, you have not only wiped out the bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria. Antibiotics are not selective in their destruction.

With that being said, antibiotics are not the only way that good bacteria becomes exhausted in your digestive system. For example, the chlorine in your drinking water can destroy them, as can the pesticide residue on the food that you eat.

Once the supply of helpful microbes in your intestines dwindles, bad microbes such as yeast, fungi, and disease-causing bacteria begin to take over. Immune systems become compromised when the bad takes over the good.

Cue the Probiotics

If you think that your good microbes might be minimal, it is not difficult to remedy the problem. The solution is to take probiotics. These are the good microbes that you can consume in your diet. Once they have entered into your body, they settle in your digestive system and get to work protecting you from sickness and destroying the bad bacteria that might reside there.

The option of consuming probiotics in a capsule form is there, but you can also replenish the good microbes by eating yogurt. Check the label to be sure that the yogurt you buy says that it contains active cultures, which is the good bacteria that you need to eat.

It is important to act now and get a jump on this year’s cold and flu season. Improve your gut function and fight off illnesses by getting ahead of the game.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition disease prevention immunity digestion gut health wellness viruses probiotics bacteria

Why Mindset Matters: The Power of Positive Thinking

GettyImages-506910700I had a friend call me the other day in a complete panic. She was getting ready to go back to work full time and she felt like she was going to be losing time with her kids by doing so. While listening to her pour her heart out to me about all the second-guessing she was doing, it became clear that everything she was saying was everything I had been thinking. All the thoughts I play over and over in my mind were actually being said out loud.

As the conversation came to an end and we hung up the phone, I sat and began to really evaluate my own thoughts and feelings. The mind is a powerful tool, and if we aren’t careful it can take complete control over our lives.

Your mind’s power lies within your focus. What I mean by that is that if you are faced with major challenges, it’s easy to grab ahold of thoughts telling you that the challenges can’t be overcome. Because it is so easy for our minds to go there, we have a tendency to fall into the trap of mistaking those thoughts for truth.

Turning Your CAN’TS into CANS

If you are someone whose mind goes to reasons why you can’t do something, it’s time to refocus and retrain your mind to find the reasons why you can do something.

  • Replace negative beliefs with the truth about yourself. Obstacles will disappear and you can step into positivity.
  • We can change our brains and create new pathways, new modes of living, and new experiences.
  • The greatest work we do is on the inside.
  • We too often underestimate the power of community in facing new tasks.
  • Blame never produces fruitful results, especially when you blame yourself.
  • We live with the things that aren’t working until pain or possibility inspires us to overhaul our lives.

Life Is a Roller-coaster

I’m not writing this to tell you that you need to have it all together. It’s totally okay not to; I know I don’t. As a matter of fact, go ask someone who seemingly has it all together and I guarantee you they will either give you a list of what they struggle to manage or they will lie to you.

What I am telling you is that life is a roller-coaster by nature. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose; sometimes it can be picture-perfect, and other times it can be blemished. We must navigate the ups and downs with the mindset that we will fail, we will triumph, we will have down moments, and we will have moments we’re on top of the world. Change begins to happen when you transform your mind from where you are to where you want to be, whether this means changing your fitness or changing in other areas of your life.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Health/Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Back Away from the Sugar: Making Better Nutrition Choices

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 5.16.05 PMEaster might be over, but the candy lingers. There is no escaping the colors of the sugary candy that is around every corner. From jelly beans to chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, the temptations are endless and the calories are empty.

Too Much Sugar Is Harmful

Sugars are caloric, sweet-tasting compounds that occur widely in nature, including in fruits, vegetables, honey, and human and dairy milk. We are born with the desire or preference for sweet taste. The presence of lactose in breast milk helps ensure that this primary source of nutrition for infants is palatable and acceptable. Chemically and with respect to food, sugars are monosaccharide or disaccharide carbohydrates, which impact sweet taste. Most foods contain some of each.

Monosaccharide is a single molecular unit that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The most common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, galactose, and mannose.

Disaccharide is sugar containing two monosaccharides that are linked together, and which are broken down in the body into single sugars. The most common disaccharide is sucrose, which is also known as table sugar.

What Happens When You Eat Sugary Candy

When you consume Easter candy, you are getting a large dose of sugar. Whether it’s in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar, it slams into your system like a bowling ball, and the effects are disastrous. Within the first 20 minutes or so, your blood-sugar level spikes as the sugar enters your bloodstream. It arrives there in the form of glucose, which is your body’s main source of energy. This sudden rise in blood glucose stimulates your pancreas to start pumping out large amounts of insulin, which is the hormone that helps your cells take in the available glucose. Some of this glucose is used instantly for energy, but the rest is stored as fat by insulin, to be used later.

Sugar is ok in moderation just be mindful, especially around the holidays when sugar is so easily accessible.

But the holidays alone aren’t the only times that we can allow these choices to creep in. Daily your efforts to eat well may be sidetracked by busy schedules, business dinners, birthday parties, evenings out with your friends, fundraising banquets, breakfast meetings, church dinners…the list goes on.

Alternatives for Healthy Eating and Celebrating

Here are some healthier alternatives. Don’t forget that you also have the option to meet with our Registered Dietitians on staff to help you get on the right path.

Let’s look at ways to enjoy Easter and not feel like you have to munch on carrots and lettuce the whole day. Alternatives to candy:

  • Very dark chocolate (choose some with very little sugar)
  • Nuts
  • Fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain crackers and pretzels
  • Cheeses
  • Popcorn

And start thinking about next Easter with these non-food ideas for kids’ Easter baskets:

  • Play dough
  • Balls
  • Jump ropes
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Crayons
  • Garden starter set
  • Butterfly habitat
  • Beading supplies
  • Swimming toys
  • Card games

The possibilities are honestly endless. It’s just a matter of taking the time to think healthier and smarter next Easter!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss snacks holidays diabetes sugar blood sugar

Throw Out Your Exercise Excuses with Fitness Spring Cleaning

GettyImages-957942458After the New Year, springtime is another time that motivates us to make a fresh start. When the weather finally starts to warm up and the breeze is blowing, we want to throw open the windows and let the rebirth all around us revitalize our homes and our spirits.

Because it’s only natural to clean out the old during this time of the year, it’s also a great time to come to terms with your excuses for not getting fit and healthy. Excuses pile up just like the clutter that people accumulate in their houses, but it’s time to come clean.

What Is Your Excuse for Not Putting Your Health First?

Maybe it’s one of these?

I don’t have time to exercise.

This is probably the most common excuse that we hear. You are too busy. You have work all day or all night; you have to take the kids to school, pick them up from school, and take them to sporting events; dinner needs to be cooked; who’s going to go to the grocery store; and so on.

Seriously though?

One of those excuses, if not all of them, is something even fitness professionals deal with on a regular basis. However, if you do not exercise, you will almost certainly begin experiencing the illness and disease that come from an inactive lifestyle. When the symptoms start to present themselves, you will have to schedule a doctor’s appointment, drive to the appointment, wait to be seen, schedule possible additional tests at the hospital, and wait for your prescriptions to be filled at the pharmacy. With chronic illness, this scenarios will be played out month after month after month, into a vicious cycle. And that, my friends, can take even more time than exercising.

There’s no doubt we find time in our busy lives to attend to our medical issues. Will you make time for them? Well, of course! It’s easy to make sure to adjust your schedule and your life to accommodate illnesses. So why not just adjust your schedule now to accommodate the prevention of these illnesses through exercise and lifestyle change?

The truth of the matter is that if you do not make time for exercise, you will have to make time for illness. And let’s be honest, exercising takes a lot less time out of your life than sickness. Do the math: there are 24 hours in a day = 8 hours of work and 8 hours of sleep, and there are still 8 hours left. You can do a great deal in 8 hours.

I don’t like to exercise.

Do you like feeling tired? Do you like having no energy? Do you like being overweight or not healthy? Do you like visiting the doctor? Or undergoing medical tests to figure out what is wrong? You will feel tired, be overweight or unhealthy, visit the doctor more often, and undergo medical tests if you continue to let your lifestyle decline by not exercising.

I don’t have any energy to exercise.

The more unfit you are, the less energy you have. When you don’t have much energy, the last thing you can imagine yourself doing is exercising. Until you become more active, you will not have the energy you are longing for. As you begin exercising, you will start to see a difference in your energy levels. Until you start moving, you won’t start feeling better.

It’s just not the right time to start working out, I will start when…

  • I get some better clothes.
  • Summer vacation starts.
  • The kids are back in school.
  • The house is organized.
  • My work schedule calms down.
  • I have more time.
  • Life calms down.
  • The kids get older.
  • The weather changes.
  • Someday… just not today!

The list can go on and on, but in all honestly, it will never be the right time to start a new routine. Start now and make it right!

You just have to start!

Make the Decision to Stop the Excuses

Making the decision to stop hiding behind your excuses is something only you can do. But by making a clean sweep and tossing out those excuses, you are setting yourself up for a better and healthier lifestyle. The fit and healthy people around you choose to give up the excuses and just do it. I’m not saying it’s easy for them, that it’s easy for me as a fitness professional, or that it will be easy for you. But what it does mean is that you will love the feeling of having energy, feeling strong and healthy, going to fewer doctor’s visits, not to mention feeling motivated and empowered to continue to push and get it done.

You Can Do This!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise fitness motivation illness wellness spring positive attitude excuses

Better Sleep = Healthier Living

GettyImages-820818020How often is it that you hear someone say, “Man, that was a great night’s sleep!” or “I slept like a baby!”? Not as often as we would like to hear, I would say! Being tired and feeling sluggish seems to be the new normal. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most Americans are sleep-deprived. Not getting enough sleep might be causing a lot more trouble than just that sleepy feeling. In fact, it could be seriously harming your health.

Why Aren’t We Sleeping?

Centuries ago, it was common for people to sleep anywhere from 8 to 9 hours each night. But now only about 25 percent of Americans get 8 or more hours of sleep. There are various reasons why we aren’t sleeping. We live in a society that is constantly on the go, 24/7. From fitness centers being open 24 hours to pharmacies and department stores being open later, around-the-clock convenience is there.

So many activities go on during a 24-hour period. From working long hours, transporting kids to their activities, trying to make time for friends, not to mention enjoying a little bit of entertainment—oh, and can’t forget about making time for our health and fitness goals. Sleep is typically the first thing to disappear from our lives, so it becomes second nature to not get enough of it.

Here’s the thing though: even when we do end up finally getting into bed, it doesn’t exactly mean we go right to sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 60 parent of Americans have sleep problems. You heard it right—more than half of us struggle to sleep, and we are starting to pay for it.

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

“The foundations of good health are good diet, good exercise, and good sleep, but two out of the three doesn’t get you there.” —Dr. Anne Calhoun, neurology professor, University of North Carolina (source: CBC)

The three components that are needed to make up a healthy lifestyle are exercise, eating healthy, and sleep. Exercise and nutrition aren’t enough to make up for the danger that sleep deprivation poses to your health, however. Some studies indicate that adults can get as little as 7 hours of sleep a night and that can be sufficient. But shooting more for 8 hours would make a world of difference. And getting less than 7 can cause some serious consequences:

Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

If you get less than 6 hours of sleep each night and have disrupted sleep, you have a 48 percent greater risk of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15 percent greater risk of developing or dying from a stroke. Not to mention, lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure, blocked arteries, stroke, kidney disease, and dementia.

Obesity

Sleep shortage is directly linked to obesity. When you don’t get enough sleep, two very powerful hormones that control hunger are disrupted, resulting in you feeling hungrier and having fewer sensations of fullness.

Not getting enough will also cause you to feel more stressed, which boosts the production of the hormone cortisol in your body. The cortisol hormone causes you to crave high-carbohydrate foods such as chips and brownies, which then turn into the fat around your belly, which is the most dangerous place to store fat.

Another reason sleep is important is that the risk of pre-diabetes goes up. When trying to make it on less than 6 hours of sleep per night, your glucose tolerance becomes impaired.

Immune System Becomes Depleted

Ever wonder how two people can be exposed to the same germs, but only one of them gets sick? The answer: their immune systems. When you have a well-functioning immune system, you are capable of warding off many illnesses. But when something is causing your immune system to not function the right way, like sleep deprivation, you become vulnerable to infections, bacteria, viruses, and even some autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and asthma.

Less sleep = more stress and a compromised immune system

Low Exercise Performance

As if the threat of heart disease, obesity, and immune suppression isn’t enough to deal with, lack of sleep can negatively impact your fitness regimen as well. A recent study in Lipids in Health and Disease came to the conclusion that exercise can help increase insulin sensitivity and sleep quality while decreasing body fat.

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At the end of the day, lack of sleep does far more harm to your health than you might realize. Although it might take some rearranging of your schedule, putting sleep first means that you don’t have to worry about making time for illness—because, let’s be honest, who has time to get sick?

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: disease prevention sleep immunity cardiovascular obesity sleep deprivation heart health