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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

10 Emotional Wellness Insights from the Pandemic

GettyImages-1247301039It’s safe to say that 2020 has been one a heck of a year (and it’s barely half over!)—the good, the bad, the ugly. At times, it’s felt as if an entire decade has passed. No matter how you slice it, the fact that we’ve experienced something as novel as a global pandemic still feels weird to say, think about, and sometimes fully appreciate. It has been a tumultuous time outside of COVID-19 as well, and every person has had a unique experience, a unique perception, and unique challenges along the way.

We’ve all probably learned a thing or two about ourselves. We’ve had time to reevaluate what is important to us, and maybe find a few things that aren’t. Here are just a few things I’ve left quarantine with, in no particular order:

My Quarantine Takeaways

  • I needed to uncouple productivity from self-worth. In working from home, I found that I accomplished most tasks in spurts. I’d work for 2 hours straight, then go for a walk, then jot down ideas for projects for 30 minutes, then get in a lift, then eat while watching a show, and on and on. Other days I just wouldn’t have it—no juice, no gas in the tank. Responding to emails felt like a win. And then the eventual guilt would sink in. Why didn’t I do more? How is this all that I got done today, this week? After a few weeks of this cycle, I finally told myself, “STOP.” It’s okay that there are things left on your to-do list. Its okay that you’re not motivated every second of every day. What we lived through, and are still living through, is something that we have literally never seen or experienced (at least I haven’t!). So give yourself some slack, be a little more forgiving, and start each day fresh.
  • My “best days” involved some semblance of structure. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little bit of spontaneity. But for much of quarantine, I found that my good days involved a level of consistency. When I woke up gradually with coffee and water, got a little bit of work done first thing, cleaned up the bedroom/loft, got in a workout, completed any errands like grocery shopping, blocked off time for reading, and got outside for some vitamin D, I felt energized. I felt accomplished. Obviously, there were variations. But blocking off time, working through chores and work intermittently, taking time for myself with activity and self-care—more often than not these days fell into the “good” category. On days where I had no schedule, stayed up too late and slept in too long, binged a TV show, or had little activity, I felt like garbage by the end. I can still hear my high school statistics teacher saying, “correlation does not imply causation,” but at least my chances for a good day skyrocketed with a little routine.
  • The importance of “idle time.” Full disclosure: I’m not sure that working from home always meshed with my personality or temperament. I would check my email every five seconds, even though I just cleared my queue seconds before. I would write down three sentences, hear the ping of a new email dropping into my inbox, and lose my complete train of thought. I would sometimes go for a walk and feel myself getting tempted to check in. Like many of us, I’m already addicted to my phone, feeling incomplete if I leave a room without it (unhealthy, I know; I’m working on it). But I found that literally scheduling in time to do nothing did wonders for my focus. I wasn’t scatterbrained when I returned to writing or working on a project. In fact, just sitting doing nothing, or having a casual conversation with my housemates, seemed to just calm my nerves and anxious thoughts in general. Just 5-minutes of unplugged silence was powerfully calming as well. Moral of the story? Sometimes doing nothing is more productive than trying to do 42 things at once.
  • The power of connection. I’m sure by this point, most of us have come to a conclusion similar to this, so I’ll keep it brief. You don’t need to be in close proximity to be close to those you love and appreciate. Some of my simplest joys came from FaceTimeing with family or having a quick phone call with a friend. It’s a quick recharge for the mental and emotional batteries.
  • It feels great to make your bed first thing. It’s simple. It’s quick. It sets your day in motion on the right foot. And at the very least, you have a tidy place to come home to when you’re ready to hit the sack for the night. It just feels good.
  • My mood is correlated to the amount of news and social media I consume. See #3 from above, and you’ll get the idea. A little news is okay. Knowing what is going on in the world around us is crucial in my mind. But the constant onslaught of “breaking news” hour after hour, minute to minute, is completely exhausting. When I limited my consumption to short periods, one stint in the morning (after coffee of course) and one in the evening, I found that my day’s trajectory was a lot more positive overall.
  • Whether good or bad, this too shall pass. No matter how large my to-do list was, no matter how much uncertainty and worry crept into my thoughts, and no matter how cathartic a workout I had, every day came to an end eventually. Sometimes I found myself muttering “this too shall pass” under my breath when I would be feeling a particular amount of anxiety or stress. And you know what? It actually did help put things in perspective. Take the good with the bad, because it’ll all be over eventually one way or another.
  • It's okay if you binged that show or played that video game. Hey, we’re all human. Don’t beat yourself up for indulging a little bit here and there! (Refer to #1 as well!)
  • Take advantage of the sunny days. Growing up in Michigan, the second most cloudy state in the US (for real!), I had a bit of a head start on this lesson. But the pandemic sure as heck hammered it home. When it was a beautiful, sunny day, I made sure to get outside for some amount of time, even if it was only 20 minutes on the back deck in between meetings. It boosted my mood, calmed me down, and made me take a second to just have a little gratitude for the simple things.
  • There is a feeling of zen I have when lifting. I know: this is an obvious one coming from a coach. But that’s also why I left it until the other insights had their time to shine. Everyone has their own interests, their own ways to unwind, and for me that is under a barbell or with a couple of dumbbells in hand. My brain shuts off, the music blares, and I can just get lost in it. If you haven’t found something, some activity that brings you a sense of calm, I highly encourage you to start exploring! Hobbies and interests shouldn’t be left by the wayside just because they’re not your main hustle.

Lessons We Will Take with Us

I’m sure that everyone will leave quarantine changed in some way, shape, or form. And the lessons you’ll leave with will be completely unique to your experience. Whether positive or negative, try to carry these into your life post-pandemic. Because more often than not, they’ll help you in the long run moving forward.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: attitude outdoors wellness vitamin D emotional self-care quarantine covid-19

Staying on Track with Your Healthy Routine During Quarantine

GettyImages-1215666910Take these next few weeks or so and use them to your advantage. We know this is an extremely challenging time, and we want to make sure you feel like you are taken care of. Circumstances are tricky right now, so even if you adopt one new technique, consider that a win! Don’t expect yourself to “eat the rainbow” every day, feel like you fall asleep easily at night from a relaxing day working at home in your pajamas, or get in a 10-mile run each morning. While you shelter at home and stay healthy, keep these tips in mind.

Create balanced meals with shelf-stable products.

Use fresh produce first, and if you feel like you won’t finish your fresh produce before it spoils, freeze it. Try to make half of your plate produce such as spinach, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, or cauliflower. Add some protein like beans (canned or dried) or tofu, and quality carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, potatoes, or quinoa. Remember, beans and grains will get you all of the essential amino acids you need, so don’t shy away from trying shelf-stable beans in place of your usual fresh meat. (Here are some meatless meal staples to look for.)

Have a plan for your meals.

Think “first-in, first-out” and make sure to use your fresh produce and proteins first in order to prevent spoilage. Create a meal plan list for the week and utilize one meal’s leftovers to create the next night’s meal to avoid wasting food. For example, if you had plain white rice to add to a veggie-stir-fry on Monday, consider keeping some white rice on the side to make rice and bean burritos for dinner the next night!

Keep food fun!

Get the family together and have fun experimenting during the week to see who can come up with the most creative meals. It’s like an episode of “Chopped” in your kitchen! You never know what some instant mashed potato flakes mixed with some flour and spices could turn into—potato pancakes perhaps. And make sure to not only keep healthy snacks in the house like nuts, carrot sticks, or apples for nourishment, but some of your favorite comfort foods will go a long way in lifting everyone’s spirits. We have had a lot of fun making popcorn in a pan and homemade bread this week.

Line up activities to do.

Plan a play date for the kids via FaceTime or Zoom. Schedule a remote “girls’ night out” and chat in the basement while watching the same TV show. Don’t go more than a few days without checking in on your friends.

Try meditation and stress-reducing activities.

There are several apps on the market that aim to help you meditate and fall asleep at night. It’s worth a try just to download one and listen while you are in bed at night. Coloring, doing puzzles, going for walks, and virtual therapy sessions with a counselor are other ways to put your mind at ease.

Stay healthy, stay calm—we’ve got this!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition stress attitude wellness meditation illness prevention meal planning quarantine covid-19

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

Productivity Hacks: Action vs. Motion—Be Productive Rather Than Busy

GettyImages-534040654How many times have you looked back at a day and thought, “Man, I wish I would’ve been more productive,” while your to-do list seems to grow and grow. Or maybe you feel like you were crossing a lot of things off the list, but no meaningful work was actually accomplished? In my experience, it’s almost a weekly occurrence. I feel like I’m flying around at work, checking off boxes. But then I get to the end of my day, scan back through, and realize that I didn’t actually work on any of the big jobs that I had originally intended. Its days like these that made me want to begin a blog series that attacks the idea of productivity: what it actually is, where our pitfalls lie, and how we can improve on it to get more out of each day.

So What Is Productivity?

In the words of the eloquent Julie Andrews, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. What the heck is productivity? We throw around the term all the time. But what it actually entails is the efficiency a person has when it comes to completing a task. It actually has nothing to do with how many tasks you get done in a day. And I think that’s where many of us miss the boat a little bit. We get so caught up in the trap of being in motion and thinking that we’re being productive as a result. Being busy is not being productive. If anything, sometimes it detracts from it. And I get it; sometimes our jobs require little tasks like answering emails, structuring your schedule, and other daily logistical to-do’s. But they shouldn’t be the things taking up the bulk of your working hours.

Taking Action: Process Goals

This leads into the concept of taking action versus just being in motion. Taking action is the direct line to achieving a result. Sometimes in the biz, we can even describe this as a process goal. It’s a physical step you’re taking toward accomplishing a task or goal. For example, if you need to write a report for work (or in my case, write this post), an action would be to physically sit down and start hammering out the intro—put pen to paper. With that same example, being in motion would look more like reading various articles, doing excessive research because you feel you’re not ready to start, or maybe even doing something completely unrelated like immediately checking emails when you sit down in your office.

This same concept of action versus motion can be seen outside of work in goal setting, too. Let’s say you want to make weightlifting part of your exercise routine. You want to get stronger and healthier, and maybe even train for a powerlifting meet! Being in motion would be to start reading books about training, reading articles written by coaches, or setting up a physical meeting with a coach to talk about where to start. Now, some of these are steps that can absolutely be taken along the way to being productive in the form of starting a resistance training plan. But that’s the thing; they shouldn’t be the only thing you’re doing. Sooner or later, you’ll need to jump in, take action, and start lifting. Getting too preoccupied in the planning stages, waiting until you feel ready, often stalls you to the point of not actually starting in the first place. Sometimes you’ll never truly feel ready. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start. Don’t delay; choose action over motion when push comes to shove.

How You Can Take Action Now

Here are some tips for getting started.

  • The smaller the task, the sooner the start. Don’t get caught in the storm of overplanning prior to starting.
  • If it’s a big project, set up meetings and set some deadlines. Yes, planning will absolutely be a part in larger tasks. Break it up piecemeal style and have the action take the form of you accomplishing a critical branch of the project. You should also have a clear-cut vision of what your next step entails.
  • When in doubt, just get started. Get started even if it’s not perfect—in fact, especially if it’s not perfect.

So whether it’s a task on the docket at work, or a personal goal you have set for yourself, you can start to become aware of when you’re stuck in the endless loop of motion. For some projects, especially bigger ones, there will be necessary checkpoints and planning along the way that would be considered motion. But don’t let that take over and be the only thing that’s happening. Take action. Get started. And in the words of legendary basketball coach John Wooden, “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

Be on the lookout for the next installment of the productivity series where I’ll tackle the topic of the Ivy Lee Method: how to set yourself up for success the following day!

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: productivity goals wellness take action be productive hacks Productivity Hacks

Walk This Way: Why You Should Walk More

GettyImages-1088123908Unless you have been on Mars for the last four or five decades, you have heard, read, and seen the benefits of walking for health and fitness. There is no new hot take on walking; it’s always been a fantastic way to stay healthy and enjoy exercise.

Walking is often undervalued as a great way to lose weight and feel better, mainly due to the perception that walking is not as “sexy” or intense as some of the fitness programs out there. And the popular opinion on the “interwebs” is that if you are not on your back at the end of the training session gasping for air, it’s not effective (with Prancersizing not doing walking any favors in the “sexy” department). But walking can be a great way to get and stay in awesome shape no matter what the Instagram stars may be showing.

Why You Need to Walk More

Let’s start with WHY you should be walking more:

  • It’s FREE and it’s FUNDAMENTAL.
  • A walking workout is customizable and can be done anywhere.
  • Walking improves almost all aspects of fitness: cardio, endurance, balance, core strength…the list goes on and on.
  • You already have the equipment (your body).
  • It’s an easy way to get activity throughout the day.
  • It has been shown to decrease the chances for diabetes, cardio-respiratory disease, heart disease…and this list goes on and on. (Side note: It has also been shown that the best medicine for the top 10 causes of death is EXERCISE.)
  • Can be a solo or group activity.
  • No extra training needed—you already know how to walk.

Those are all pretty good reasons why we should walk more, right? Trust me, there are more reasons than listed above, but we’ll start with those.

How Can You Walk More?

So HOW can you walk more than you currently are? Hopefully you know the common ways: park far away from any building you are entering, take the stairs, walk the dog more than once a day. Here are a few other strategies you may not have thought of:

  • Walk to complete errands.
  • Take public transit and get off two or three stops before the closest stop.
  • Take a shopping cart all the way back to the store or the farthest return—and oh, grab a few on your way because leaving your cart is an epidemic.
  • Fill up your water bottle every hour during your workday, and travel as far as possible to do so.
  • Schedule a 30-minute walk as a training day.
  • Walk mow your lawn, and maybe your neighbors’, too.
  • Practice the Hawaiian wellness habit of searching for beauty.
  • Start your day with a 15–20-minute walk.

How to Ramp Up the Intensity of Your Walking Workout

For those of you who want to ratchet up the intensity on this catch-all, easy-to-use mode of exercise, here are some strategies to rock a great walk:

  • Walk with a purpose: Walk faster and with purpose whenever you are walking (unless it’s a long stroll on a beautiful beach).
  • Inclined walking: Find some hills or put some incline on the treadmill.
  • Weighted carries: Pick up something heavy and walk with it.
  • Rucking (walking with a heavy pack): Same idea as carries, just using a pack.
  • Sled pulls: Strap a sled to yourself and start walking.
  • Hiking: Undulating terrain is a built-in training mode of increasing intensity.

Exercise and fitness does not always need to be extravagant and really should never be complicated (here are some really simple workouts for students). Make walking a bigger part of your training program. No matter the intensity level you choose, just move more!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: walking weight loss workouts disease prevention wellness mindfulness steps

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

Flu Fighting Foods: Boost Your Immunity This Winter

GettyImages-928034704The 2017–2018 flu season was one of the worst on record. It was the first time that flu had been classified as high severity across all age groups and led to more than 80,000 deaths. If you are like most people, the dreaded winter flu season can be scary. However, certain foods can help you fight off the flu or lower your chances of catching that nasty bug.

Immunity-Boosting Foods

Here are some foods (and drinks) to fill up on to help fight the flu:

  • Green tea: Green tea is packed with antioxidants; sip it hot or cold throughout the day to help keep the flu away.
  • Sweet potatoes: This bright orange food is packed with Vitamin A to help keep those free radicals at bay that can threaten to weaken your immune system. Pop a sweet potato in the microwave for 7 minutes for a quick and easy addition to lunch or dinner.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt naturally contains probiotics that help keep your immune system healthy and strong. It's such an easy and filling snack to grab or use as a substitute for sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream in high-fat recipes.
  • Tuna: Tuna is an excellent source of selenium and Vitamin D, which helps protect cells from free radicals and improve your immune system. Try mixing a pouch of tuna with some plain Greek yogurt and serve it atop a bed of leafy greens.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are rich in selenium, low body levels of which have been found to increase your chance of getting the flu. Chop them up and add them to a pasta dish, salad, or soup.
  • Peanuts: This tasty snack is full of zinc, which helps keep your immune system working properly. A handful is the perfect amount to grab for an afternoon snack or to throw in a stir-fry at dinner.
  • Water: This essential nutrient keeps the body running efficiently. Getting fluids in various forms is vital. Tea, 100% juice, coffee (preferably decaffeinated), and water-filled foods such as fruits and vegetables all count toward your hydration needs.

A Yummy Flu-Fighting Recipe

Try this recipe that incorporates a couple of these flu-fighting foods:

Sweet Potato Tuna Melt

1 large sweet potato (halved)
¾ cup canned tuna
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ tsp garlic seasoning
½ tsp onion seasoning
Lemon pepper to taste
½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes, cut side down, on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove potatoes and allow to cool. Meanwhile, combine tuna, Greek yogurt, and spices in a bowl.
  3. Top potatoes with tuna and sprinkle with cheese. Place under the broiler for 1 minute or until the cheese has melted.

Enjoy with a glass of green tea!

Nutritional Balance Is the Key

As with most things, a balanced diet is the key. A diet high in a variety of produce, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, along with moderate exercise, adequate sleep, and minimal stress, contributes the most to a well-functioning immune system and faster healing if the flu does strike. Incorporate these foods, but also continue to work on overall balance to your life.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition winter immunity whole foods wellness fruits and vegetables flu

Changing Lives: Getting Kids to Participate in Fitness and Wellness

GettyImages-521611274Running, skipping, hopping, bounding, throwing, and crawling are all activities children around the world enjoy and are necessities for proper movement development. Most sports and lifetime fitness activities require one or more of these basic motor skills. Developing basic motor skills sometimes is not our main priority when it comes to our children’s upbringing. In our lifetime, the focus on physical education has somewhat declined due to various reasons, with one reason being a deemphasis on playground time and even family-time physical activity. Beyond physical fitness, there are many other benefits that one can get from being more active, especially at a young age.

Many Kids Don’t Get Enough Activity

Not shocking, but definitely sobering, is the knowledge that only 1 in 3 children is physically active every day, 1 in 3 children is obese, and 70 percent of people become obese as adults. With an increase in our children’s electronics usage (phone, computer, television, and so on), things are starting to look quite concerning. Looking at this from a fitness professional’s point of view, I feel that health and wellness is the most important thing you have, making this issue the highest of priorities.

Accountability and Being a Role Model

How can we help our children overcome the unwanted effects of unhealthy living and gain all the benefits of fitness and wellness? Some of the responsibility is going to be on the shoulders of the adults in charge of the child. Being a good role model is not only good for the child, but also for the adult. Being conscious of what you are eating and how much exercise you are getting every day is a great start. There are many activity trackers and websites such as www.myfitnesspal.com that can help with accountability. You can even link to others in your family to see what they are doing and create a supportive network without even leaving the nest.

Finding the Right Sport or Activity

Not every child will gravitate toward a specific sport or activity, and it may take several tries to find what works for them. If team sports like soccer or basketball don’t work, try something that is more individual like swimming, wrestling, or tennis. If traditional sports are not the answer, look at other activities such as martial arts, rock climbing, or ballet. If economics is an obstacle, going to a park, tossing the ball around, and playing tag are all easy and inexpensive games for kids that promote exercise, motor skill development, and social interaction. Ultimately, having a role model who cares about their wellness can have a profound impact on the child’s image of fitness.

It's a Big Responsibility, but NIFS Can Help

Although that may sound like a huge responsibility, we owe it to our youth to prioritize fitness and wellness in an effort to slow the trends we are seeing around the globe. Check out your local parks and other options for fitness and reach out to fitness professionals, your child’s physical education teachers, and coaches for help.

NIFS can help too! Contact Monica Bopp at NIFS for more information about organizing a field trip for your school. Field trips at NIFS are fun and educational and cater to all ages. Keep your focus on what matters: our future.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active Thomas' Corner accountability kids wellness fitness for kids role models

Commonsense Weight Loss: Diet Personalities Gone Wrong

GettyImages-971392106There are many diet personalities out there. If you are one of these, it could be the reason you are having trouble losing weight or maintaining weight loss.

Starvin’ Marvin: Always Hungry

Starvin’ Marvin follows strict calorie guidelines. He doesn't get the calories and fuel his body needs to accomplish the routine tasks of his day. He is often tired and always hungry. When he works out, Marvin's body does not have sufficient fuel, so he isn’t able to put in as much effort as he would like.

Solution: Losing weight requires either eating fewer calories or burning off excess calories through physical activity. So one good first step for Starvin’ Marvin is to find out how many calories his body requires for weight loss. Choose My Plate is an excellent resource to help determine the correct calories for your height, weight, and activity factor. No one should ever consume less than 1,200 calories per day.

Negative Nancy: The Wrong Attitude for Weight Loss

Restriction, starvation, elimination, bland, boring…all of these are words that Nancy uses to describe her diet, yet she is constantly starting a new one. Anything that has this much dread attached to it is not something that she can or should be doing for the long haul.

Solution: Negative Nancy needs to start incorporating positive words into her healthy new eating plan: Balanced plate, Moderation with sweets and high-fat foods, Flavorful spices to jazz up vegetables, Variety with food groups, and Satisfying meals.

Rigid Ricky: Doesn’t Believe He Can Be Flexible and Still Lose Weight

Nobody’s perfect. This simple phrase is exactly why diets don’t work.

Solution: Ricky would be much happier and healthier if he took a simple approach to his eating. He should spend 80 percent of his time eating right—consuming multiple servings of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy—and following a safe and healthy workout plan. The other 20 percent of Rigid Ricky’s life can be filled with “extras” such as a cookie or piece of cake, a day off from exercising, and maybe even an alcoholic beverage of his choice. If he allows himself to not be as rigid with his plan, his chances of succeeding will increase dramatically.

Unsupported Ulysses: Hasn’t Discovered the Value of Accountability

Losing weight can be difficult, and making lifestyle changes is all the more difficult when those around you are not there to support and help you make changes.

Solution: Ulysses needs a support system that can help him stick to his goals and hold him accountable to them. He needs a "buddy" to give him a push when he is feeling low and to keep him from feeling alone in his journey. A support system should encourage and praise Ulysses for the hard work he is putting in and the changes he is making. Try healthy new foods and recipes and physical activities with your buddy, or even train for an event together. Having a Supportive Sally around can make his weight-loss mission much more enjoyable.

Resentful Rita: Deprives Herself and Is Unhappy About It

When we think of “diets,” we think of giving up our favorite foods. This only leads to feeling deprived and carrying negative feelings toward “healthy foods” and feeling guilty about eating “unhealthy foods.” Rita will become angry that she “can’t” have the foods she wants, which then leads to resentment. Deprivation of her favorite foods may lead to overeating or yo-yo dieting.

Solution: Rita needs to RELAX! No food is off limits; all foods can fit.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS weight loss attitude weight management wellness diets

Taking a Break from Good Nutrition and Fitness: The “Cheat Day”

GettyImages-84629295Can you really win by cheating? Well, the obvious answer is no. Morally, we know that cheaters aren’t supposed to win. If that is the case, why do we cheat ourselves through self-destructive behavior, known as cheat days, throughout the week?

After a long, hard week of work, with the addition of a strict training protocol and nutrition plan, sometimes we feel we need to take a day off, or even just a meal where there are no rules or responsibilities holding us down. These are called “cheat days” or “cheat meals.” They can be as simple as staying up late and having drinks with friends, or going to an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet on a Sunday afternoon. Are cheat days bad for you, or are they a good way to bridge the gap between unrealistic ideals and natural human behavior? This blog will look more closely at this question.

Indulging Often Defeats the Purpose

This day, for starters, is meant to be a built-in rewards program and motivation for those who have done well throughout the week (or weeks) leading up to the act of cheating. There are a few rules, though. Cheating multiple times per week (or everyday, for that matter) is no longer cheating; it is considered your normal routine. This probably means there are other issues that you might need to resolve.

For the cheat day to work, an established routine of exercise and nutrition has to be in place already. Several days of flawless nutrition coupled with workout plans help you earn that day, experience, or meal you want. This can be done at a maximum of once per week. We tend to devalue the indulgence after a few weeks, and it becomes less of an all-out binge and more of a planned day or meal (we want to feel good after a meal and not like garbage). In this case, the plan works and makes perfect sense.

Why We Need to Take a Break Sometimes

There’re only so many broccoli florets you can eat before you go mad, and only so many burpees you can do before your body gives out completely. Spicing up your life with cheat days eventually has restorative properties that help both mentally and physically. From socializing with friends to taking time to relax to giving yourself a pat on the back, it can help each of us differently and at the same time bring us all together by humanizing wellness and fitness.

Remember, though: you can’t cheat everyday or every other day. Consistency is your ticket to a splurge. Further, it doesn’t have to be about food. You can always reward yourself by going on vacations, buying yourself an outfit, or going to the spa.

Get Goal-Setting Help

NIFS can help. NIFS staffers are here to help you set realistic, measurable goals. Set up a time to meet and talk about goals, testing (before and after), and personal training.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition motivation goal setting attitude wellness cheat days