Archive

Monthly Archives: January 2014
43

Overweight and Over the Hill: Menopause and Weight Gain

Alexandra Williams, MA
menopause abs

Before & After Abs

Pretty depressing title, isn’t it? But that’s how I feel as 2014 settles in – overweight and over the hill. You know the very first line in Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing?” I’ll make it easy – he says, “Let’s Do It.” As 2014 settles in, I realize I need your help and encouragement to “do it” so I can reach my weight goal.

Right around Christmas, something that horrified me, and left me convinced I had some sort of abdominal tumor (face it, at 55 I do not consider pregnancy as an option; a killer tumor seems far more logical), was a weight gain of a pound a day ten days in a row. It’s true – I gained ten pounds in a ten day span (no tumor made itself known). The frustrating thing is that I was actually moving even more than usual. As a matter of fact, I got a Polar Loop and put up my December activity stats in my “Rethink Your Day” post. And this month I’ve kept a’movin.

Polar Loop Stats for Alexandra

Yes, I move a LOT.

So I don’t need to move MORE; I need to move DIFFERENTLY. This is me, the fitness expert, speaking to me, the frustrated menopausal exerciser. In case you think I’m a crazy eater, I’m not. This is a typical day’s intake (yes, I’ve started a food journal, as they DO work):

rye toast with butter
smoothie – kale, Greek yogurt, banana, almondmilk, flax, ice
hot chai
½ apricot hamentaschen

half an apricot hamentaschen

I only ate half!!!

yogurt with almonds
raspberries
rice
corn
hummus with chia pita bread
white chocolate peanut butter

So I don’t need to eat DIFFERENTLY; I need to eat LESS, I guess. I am a vegetarian with no food allergies, so will not be doing any specific diets.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram know I’m quite the selfie addict. But right around the start of January one friend said my cleavage had increased, and one of my fitness students said my legs “had some meat on them.” In both cases, the comments were meant as compliments, but that is NOT how I took them. Ladies, if you like being told your legs have meat on them, please let me know in the comments, as I am not familiar with this being a desirable goal!!

So, yeah, I guess my selfies are showing those ten pounds. Can I blame aging? I’m quite a private person, but I tell ya, I need your encouragement. It’s super frustrating to know what to do, do it, then nada. zip. nichevo. niets. nichts. rien. nothing. My BMI  (according to the Polar Loop) is 25, which is average for my height and weight, yet doesn’t account for my age or muscular build. My VO2 max is 31, which is above average. Gotta get the BMI down, and the VO2 max up.

My goal for the next few months is to lose a safe two pounds a week, until I shed 10-15 pounds total. My health and strength are great; I’m just vain. I don’t want to have tight clothing. I don’t want to feel unattractive. I don’t want to compare my 2014 self to my my 2013 self. I just want to manage this stinkin’ food tumor! And be hawt and sexy. You know, the basics!

Please leave me your favorite:
* high intensity, low impact cardio move
* flexibility yoga pose
* multi-joint strength move

and each day I’ll incorporate your suggestions into my regimen. Time to shake things up, and by “things” I don’t mean my abs! In that area, I want more bakin’, less shakin’.

Do Some Shaking to Lose That Bakin'

Shake Your Bacon. Or is it Bake It & Shake It?

Stupid aging. Stupid slowing metabolism.

If you’re trying to lose weight, this post about the 5 Steps to Create Permanent Change might be helpful.

 

 

 

 

For more tips from pros who feel your pain, follow us on Google +Alexandra and +Kymberly; on Twitter – AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit; and Instagram – KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.

 

12

3 Ways to Perfect Your Posture: Tenaya Healthy Living Retreat is One

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
 
Disclosure: In our capacity as fitness experts, we are being compensated for the events mentioned below. We don’t make any money if you join us; you just get great advice and a fabulous experience with two service-oriented companies – Tenaya Lodge and Sherpa.
Good Posture vs Bad Posture

Good Posture vs Bad Posture

In our previous post, Look Younger and Thinner Instantly with Better Posture, you discovered some of the benefits of good posture. Today you get tips on ways you can find and maintain good alignment. Plus we want to extend invitations to our west coast readers who are eager to revel in better health and happier bodies. (Hint – treat yourself to a spa weekend at the Tenaya Healthy Living Retreat in late March).

Kymberly: First up – Pretty Posture Pointers

  • Stand with your back to a wall. Do your shoulder blades, buttocks and heels touch the wall? Evenly?
  • Stay at that wall to do some of your exercises (such as bicep curls or forward raises) with your back and shoulders against it. Focus on whether you can maintain contact with good spinal alignment. You will easily notice coming out of alignment if you fall forward off the wall.
  • Do only back and downward shoulder rolls. Skip up and forward rolls. Why roll the shoulders up and forward when they are most likely already in that tense and hunched position?
  • When you are sitting in a chair, scoot your hips as far back in the chair as possible. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Even better, sit on a stability ball instead of a chair or stool.
  • When sitting on a hard surface, center your weight over the front edge of your “sitz bones” (ischial tuberosities) and imagine wiggle wagging your tailbone into the correct position.
  • Set a timer to remind yourself to lengthen into good posture, stand up, walk around, and reestablish alignment. Name the timer “mom” and let yourself be nagged, er reminded.
    Stop! In the Name of Posture

    Stop! In the Name of Posture

  • Implement my famous “Zip trick” Imagine a zipper that runs from your pubic bone to your chin. Zip up. Then (here’s the important part) imagine a second zipper that runs from the base of your neck to your tailbone. Zip DOWN right between the shoulder blades. Watch our Posture Zip Trick video.
  • Strengthen your back muscles.
  • Strengthen your core. Yes, we know these last two constitute more than “tips.” But what discussion on posture would be complete without mentioning the real, long term criteria to achieve beautiful alignment?

Alexandra: Posture Assessments at Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite

I’ll add a tip that works for me – pretend you’re a marionette with a string running through the top of your head and down the center of your torso. Now imagine that the puppeteer is pulling the string up. If you’re more technical, just pretend it’s a plumb bob.

Because our Posture Series has made us so famous (hi Mom, hi Dad), we’ve been invited to a super duper event, where we’ll be offering posture assessments (and an energetic, fun Drums Alive class).

Stand Up and Sherpa Right

Stand Up and Sherpa Right

At the Yosemite Healthy Living Retreat at Tenaya Lodge, March 28-30, 2014 we’ll present a posture workshop, as well as a Drums Alive class to the attendees. Be part of Tenaya’s inaugural healthy retreat and join us at one of the world’s best wellness resorts (according to USA Today). Their focus is on interactive, fun, take home sessions and activities in a breathtaking setting.

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Besides our classes, you will have exclusive access to wellness education on topics ranging from fitness and yoga to nutrition and personal care.  Your weekend also includes special treatments in the Double Silver LEED-certified Ascent Spa, products and classes from Kimberly Parry Organics, and a hands-on culinary class and dinner with Executive Chef Frederick Clabaugh.

Now THAT'S a scenic hike!

Now THAT’S a scenic hike!

Why not book the weekend and join us? All kinds of good stuff going on for those with perfect (or imperfect) posture! You can focus on perfecting your gait too, by joining us on a walk right at the gateway to one of our nation’s most revered national parks.

Outdoor Yoga at Tenaya Lodge

Outdoor Yoga at Tenaya Lodge

No matter what, dear Posture Pals, do as the Dirty Heads suggest, and

“Stand tall, it gets a little better
I see the wall that we can break down together
Stand strong, it gets a little better now”

When you’re done singing and standing tall, sit down at your computer and book your trip to join us at Tenaya Lodge.

Photos: posture graphics – Dreaming in the deep south; all others – Tenaya Lodge

28

Look Younger and Thinner Instantly with Better Posture

Want to look 5 pounds slimmer instantly? With no needles or sweating involved? Then it’s time to improve your posture! Especially if you have spent many moons pointing your nose and nipples to your toes.

Straight, yet unnatural posture. Go for those Natural Curves!!

Straight, yet unnatural posture. Go for those Natural Curves!!

Definition of Good Posture

Kymberly: What is good posture anyway? Let’s first establish what it is NOT: a straight back. The biggest mistake people make when trying to correct poor posture is to stand ramrod straight. The back has natural curves designed to absorb impact. And nothing about looking like you have a rod rammed up your spine is attractive! Or good for you.

What it IS: having alignment that creates the least amount of strain on your supporting muscles and ligaments when you stand, sit, move or perform weight-bearing activity. Notice that our list leaves out “sleeping” so feel free to hunch, slouch, curl, or straighten out when conked out!

What Does Good Posture Offer You?

For starters, standing tall helps you stay young by maintaining your range of motion and staving off age-related skeletal changes that make you shorter with each passing decade. But that’s not all folks!

When you extend into good posture, you:

  • Look leaner instantly. Slumping and slouching turn off the abs, which allow the belly to protrude. As you lengthen into good posture, you engage the abs and compress, immediately taking weight off the middle visually.
  • Look younger (it’s not called “old lady dowager hump for nothing)
  • Project better body language
  • Increase energy
  • Enhance ability to breathe easily, freely, deeply. No wonder you have more energy! You can get oxygen more effectively to your brain, lungs, muscles — well, just about everywhere in your body.
  • Improve your confidence and mood. A 2009 study in the European Journal of Social Psychology (Brion, Petty, & Wagner 2009) looked at how posture influences self-confidence. Researchers found that poor posture led to decreased self-confidence; good posture had the opposite, positive effect.
  • Diminish aches, strains, and pains
  • Decrease neck tension
  • Reduce back pain
  • Decrease wear and tear on joints, reducing the possibility of arthritis
BackJoy for Better Posture

BackJoy for Better Posture

Alexandra: Just a few days ago, a friend who’s an interior designer asked for posture suggestions because his back has been hurting from prolonged sitting. I recommended to him, and pass along to you, the BackJoy,  which sits on your chair while you sit on it! (Disclosure: I was sent one free of charge to test out). Then you do the Hokey Pokey, except it’s more like the Finey Spiney. “You put your tush right on, you tuck your abs right in, your chest lifts up so quickly, and your spine becomes a Win! That’s what it’s all about!”

My older son has drummer’s slouch (I coined that term to describe his crappy posture, which he has when drumming, and well, all day long), so he’s been using the BackJoy during dinner. It has helped him, so I’m a fan. In my ideal world, my son (and everyone with posture issues) would do core and back strengthening moves. In the real world, the BackJoy is a complement to those exercises.

Come back on Thursday for our next post, which will also have some great posture info, plus an invitation to a wellness event where we’ll be doing posture assessments. Hint: the event is in a location that’s consistently rated as one of the top wellness spas. And that’s all I have to say about that! (Watch this video) P.S. Note his perfect posture.

Benefit from Our Posture Series

Motivated to learn more about how to asses and improve your posture? Then take advantage of our Fun and Fit Posture Series, provided in both posts and short videos. Going back to our early days of Fun and Fit, start with a humorous take on the subject,

The Straight Scoop on Super Posture. Then zip your way through the series, starting with

What’s Your Natural and True Posture?  From there, proceed to

Want Perfect Posture? Come on, who doesn’t? Next, enjoy knowing what landmarks to look for in

Assessing Posture from the Side.  Once you know what you’ve got goin’ on, it’s time to

Fix Your Posture Part 1. Then meet our mom, who helps you Fix Your Posture Part 2. Plus you learn the Kymberly Zip Trick.  For those who want to sit nicely, then

Seated Posture Pointers will get you squirming out of your chair (and onto a ….).  Gotta click and see to know.  Lastly – whew! Will this series ever end? Not until you stand up taller! Anyway, lastly, check in with your

Chin Placement. Odds are you are trying to Get Ahead — and have become a dreaded Head Thruster.

What’s that you say? You want to short cut to the videos? Click the following to go right to our YouTube videos.

How to Find Your Natural Posture: Part 1
Quick Tips to Assess Posture Before Correcting It: Part 2 
Look Longer and Leaner Once You Assess Posture from the Side, Part 3
Simple Exercises to Help Fix Posture: Part 4
Time to Fix Your Posture: Part 5 
Seated Posture and Spinal Alignment: Part 6 
Do a Chin Check to Get Proper Posture: Part 7

Call to Action: Saaay, want more concise, active aging videos designed for the over 50 woman to get results? Subscribe to our YouTube channel when you head over there via any of the above links. We also appreicate Thumbs Up and likes!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

7

What’s the Best, Most Accurate Pedometer?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Kymberly's pedometer

Just 7000 steps to go.

Dear Fun and Fit: I read your post (on whether walking can really get midlife women fit). What pedometer brand or model would you recommend? I’ve tried Walmart off-the-shelf pedometers in the past and have been frustrated with the lack of accuracy or noise. Thank you so much for being willing to take my question! Your input is much appreciated!!

Bev Carrasco @choosing4balance

Kymberly: Dear Bev, the pedometer I use is the Accusplit Eagle, a super simple clip-on that counts steps. It makes no noise and seems accurate … or at least consistent. Did you think I was just describing my sister by any chance? Ahh ahah No way! Nothing fancy and fairly inexpensive. Oh, wait. Maybe I am describing her. Mwah ha ha! Back to pedestrian matters: This link points you to pedometers rated best by Pedometers USA, which lists the Accusplit. Score!

Alexandra in the botanic garden in Thailand

I just know there’s a garden gnome in here somewhere.

Alexandra: You walked (get it?) into my mind trap Bev, because I just wrote my opinion of the Polar Loop a few weeks ago. I love its features — counts steps, calories, heart rate (with the optional monitor that straps to your chest), what you need to do to reach your goal, and the ability to sync to certain phones.

Really, the only missing feature is a garden gnome. One caveat — it hates my fingers. I have to tap it a lot to get it to show my stats. I don’t know if it’s MY Loop or all Loops, though it does seem to like the gentle caress that my son gives it!

Kymberly: You heard it here folks! Alexandra admits to being loopy. Back to our regular programming ….. Consumer reports did a review, but it requires a paid subscription to access their results. So I stepped back and went instead to their free article on how to choose a pedometer. Color me Fun, Fit, and Frugal! This article from the Mayo Clinic offers criteria for selecting a pedometer.

Kymberly walks tall at Rancho la Puerta

Can you spot my pedometer? Closer, closer.

A friend and I also tried the PE -330 Tri-Axis when we were at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Resort a little while ago. (The resort provides the Tri-Axis for guest use). She and I wore these pedometers every day for a week. We compared steps to see whether it was accurate. Her legs are longer than mine (sigh… long leg envy moment) so our numbers did not match exactly, which was probably correct. Our test counts found this pedometer also pretty accurate. Very simple, lightweight, and easy to use. Like my Accu-Split, the Tri-Axis counted steps only.

Kymberly walking in Santa Barbara

These feet were made for walking… and counting steps

In summary, I prefer and suggest using the simplest pedometer possible if the priority is to know your steps per day. Once you add in calories, distance, stride length, and more the gadgets not only get more expensive, but also less accurate. While I have an app on my phone that calculates distance and miles, (but not steps), I don’t always have my phone on my person so would not get total steps recorded. Nor do I want to always have my phone on my body.

Is any pedometer totally accurate?

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care. About time. — Is a certain Chicago song now running through your head? You are welcome!

Ultimately I figure if I get close enough to 10,000 steps each day then I am meeting my overall movement goals. Hope that works for you too!

Walk your fingers over to:

1) Follow us on Google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter:  AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.

2) Pick up the phone or email us to book us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

16

Should You Burn Your Bread (not Your Bra) to Lose Belly Fat?

Alexandra Williams, MA
Homemade Sourdough Cheesy Bread

Homemade Sourdough Cheesy Bread

Today a friend asked me how I am able to bake and eat bread so often, yet stay trim, when there are studies showing that menopausal women increase their “central body fatness and insulin resistance” (as the research authors so eloquently put it!!) unless they decrease their carbohydrate intake (bread is mainly carbs).

As this is the time of year when many women in my cohort (that’s just a fancy word for “age posse”) are making frustrating resolutions about weight loss, I thought I’d answer that question for all of you too!

Carbs and Belly Fat

The answer is simple; it’s the same answer I learned in grad school for counseling. The answer is “It Depends.” I’ll lay out some info and you can decide for yourself. Keep in mind that everyone’s different. I’m a physiologically identical twin, yet we are different sizes with different eating habits, and no definitive research saying our differences are carb-related!! If my sis gave up carbs, she might lose deep abdominal fat, while I might stay the same and cry about being separated from my beloved bread. It just depends…

Abdominal Fat is Frustrating for Menopausal Women

Abdominal Fat is Frustrating for Menopausal Women

Here’s what we currently know:

* Menopause coincides with an increase in several comorbidities including cardiovascular disease
* Central body fatness and insulin resistance are components of a cluster of metabolic abnormalities which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease
* Studies suggest that the menopause transition is associated with an increase in abdominal and visceral adipose tissue accumulation
* The effects of menopause on insulin resistance appear to be moderate, if any, although available studies are insufficient to draw firm conclusions
Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9847982

* A modest reduction in consumption of carbohydrate foods may promote loss of deep belly fat, even with little or no change in weight
* Losing belly fat can help reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, stroke and coronary artery disease
* Subjects in a 2011 study who consumed a moderately carb-restricted diet (43% percent calories from carbohydrates, 39% from fat, 18 from protein), had 11 percent less deep abdominal fat than those study participants who ate a standard diet (55% from carbs, 27% from fat, 18% from protein)
Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110606092532.htm

Cut The Carbs…Or Not

Should you base your decision on just a few studies? Probably not, though you would be wise to see if further research gets to a tipping point as more studies are done. But if you’re the kind of person who can wait 25 minutes for bread to bake, but not a year or two for more studies, become your own experiment. Try eating a moderately carb-restricted diet for a few weeks, using the percentages listed above. Or, if you don’t want to spend lots of time doing food math, pull all starchy carbohydrates from your diet, then reintroduce them one at a time. This includes breads, pastas, rice, grains, oatmeal, potatoes, legumes (beans) and squash. If a reintroduced food gives you cravings, bloating, digestive discomfort or mood swings, it might be time to say bye-bye to to it.

I'll Swing from a Tree for Monkey Bread

I’ll Swing from a Tree for Monkey Bread

To go back to the original question, I don’t know how I’m able to bake and eat bread so often, yet stay trim. Maybe my intra-abdominal fat never read the studies. Maybe my body doesn’t know that I’m in the menopause years. Maybe all my exercise counteracts the “food belly bloat.” Maybe my fondness for organic food and ingredients over processed or packaged foods helps. Maybe it’s because I only eat a few bites of the things I bake. If I were to guess, I’d go with the organic food and ingredients answer. But a guess isn’t science.

One day I’ll have to do the food removal/ reintroduction test on myself. Until then, I guess my answer is “It Depends.”

If you want further info about bread and wheat, read our post “Is Wheat Free Better for You?”. You probably know the answer.

For further tips on making nutrition changes to your diet, read “Hormones and Weight Gain: Why Nutrition Matters” by our friend Tamara Grand, a personal trainer and scientist.

While your bread’s in the oven, run to your computer and follow us on Google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter:  AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. 

Hire us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

11

Benefits of a Spa: We Went to Glen Ivy Hot Springs & Learned How to Relax (and Have Great Skin)

Alexandra Williams, MA

Glen Ivy Hot SpringsAs a new year begins, many of us resolve to put our health first. This includes relaxation, or at least some down time. With this in mind, the Fun and Fit clan headed to Glen Ivy Hot Springs  in Corona, California this past week in order to start 2014 in a wellness way!

And we found wellness galore! Originally known as “Temescal Sulphur Springs” (“temescal” is the Aztec word for “sweat lodge”), the spa was first advertised in 1860 to those who desired the health and recreational benefits of the medicinal waters.

Come for the Medicinal Waters!

Come for the Medicinal Waters!

So there we were, over 150 years later, clad in our swimsuits, robes and sunscreen, deciding which of 19 pools to go in first. From our concierge (yup, great service at the spa), we learned there is a recommended order for a few of the pools, so these are listed in the order that we used them.

So Many Types of Pool Water

The Aqua Class Makes People Smile

The Aqua Class Makes People Smile

Aqua class in the lap pool: A combination of cardio (for the heart, and calorie burn) and muscle toning, our instructor (and long-time friend) Meg Root  made this class fun for everyone. From a 17-year-old to an 84-year-old; from total beginners to fitness professionals, this aqua class is accessible.

Time to Relax

Time to Relax

Saline Pool: A natural antiseptic, salt water helps with a variety of skin conditions, reduces acid levels after a workout (think of lactic acid buildup), and oxygenates the cells.

Mineral Baths: These are the geothermal mineral waters that come directly from the earth at Glen Ivy, and are what made it famous back in the days of the California Gold Rush. At 104°, the waters are known to soothe aching joints and muscles.

Getting Muddy Wit' It at Club Mud

Getting Muddy Wit’ It at Club Mud

Club Mud: This pool is pretty fun and funny. You grab red clay (Silica Dioxide, Aluminum, Iron, Calcium Oxide, Magnesium Oxide, Potassium Oxide, & Titanium Oxide) and rub it all over yourself, then sit in a heated “cave” while it dries. The clay softens your skin, draws out impurities and exfoliates dead skin cells. It can also stain a light swimsuit, so don’t wear your brand new white one-piece.

Crap, that's Cold. Son Went In Fully. Not I.

Crap, that’s Cold. Son Went In Fully. Not I.

Hot Pool & Cold Plunge: You’re encouraged to go in the hot pool for a few minutes, then do a 30-second dip in the VERY cold plunge for up to 10 cycles, but I did a half-body 10 second plunge in the 55°-65°F cold, followed by a 5 minute “recovery” in the hot. My legs were tingly. Athletes use this type of therapy to shorten muscle recovery time after intense workouts, but it’s good for anyone who wants to increase blood flow to the muscles. I increased my blood flow by jumping OUT of the cold plunge quickly. See the expression on my face?

Painted with Green Grotto Goo (Moisturizer)

Painted with Green Grotto Goo (Moisturizer)

The Grotto: First of all, you know it’s going to be quite the experience when you enter an elevator to descend below-ground! Once there, the staff members paint your body with copious amounts of green body moisturizer (aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil and other ingredients including eucalyptus). From there, you go into a warm cave room and let the lotion soak into your skin. You then move into the shower room, which has shower “pods” that spray warm water from above and the side. If you can drag yourself away from that, the final room is a cool, misting area where you can have tea and apples. After removing impurities in the saline and mud pools, the grotto is where you go to moisturize.

Somehow in our busy schedule of relaxing, we managed to eat lunch and go in most of the pools, though the Roman bath, sauna, and steam room will have to wait for next time. If you are near Southern California at any time, we hope you’ll check out Glen Ivy Hot Springs. Repeatedly lauded as one of the best day spas, it’s hard to believe we didn’t know of its existence until a few years ago. But we know now!!!!

Map of Glen Ivy Hot Springs

Map of Glen Ivy Hot Springs

May your 2014 be full of wellness, health, family and friends. And if you want a list of 44 benefits to Steam Bathing, click this link from our friends at Mr. Steam.

Relax while you follow us on Google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter:  AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Doing so won’t help you exfoliate, but it will help you gain knowledge & support!

Hire us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

 

 

17

What Can You Do to Be Happy This Year? Besides Eating Tuna

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Resolve to Be Actively Happy

Enjoying quote of the day at Rancho la Puerta

Happy Is as Happy Thinks, Drinks, and Does

Did you set New Year’s Resolutions? Some years I do; some I don’t. Which got me to pondering why we consider changes and fresh starts each new year. “To become a better person” seems the obvious answer. But to what end?

What lies behind the desire to “improve,” “remake,” or “change” ourselves? Ultimately isn’t it a pursuit of happiness? “If only this or that changed, then I would be happy,” is the implication. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. At least for 2014.

2014 issue of Outside Magazine

Get Out?! Be Happy!

Meantime, both neuroscience and Outside magazine had the good timing to release a list of strategies that enhance happiness. Wouldn’t you know it, but the keys to being happy involve exercise, healthy eating habits, and playing (mostly outdoors).

If you are looking to add more happiness to 2014 then try adopting some of the the following habits. I listed the happy habits that I either liked the best, saw as easiest to implement, or validated my current values. To see the complete, original article read the January 2014 issue of Outside magazine.

Wake Early

Alarms set on iPhone

1) Cranky hour 2) Sleepy hour 3) Just right for “early.”

I was a little surprised that early risers are happier people until I thought of the days that my get up and go got up but good! I always feel better when I get a jump on the day. Sure, we need to get in our 7-8 hours of snoozing per night. But we also need our Vitamin D. So the more time awake during sunlight hours, the better our immune system. It’s hard to be happy when ill; it’s easier to greet the day with a high five when we’ve gotten a good night’s sleep followed by an early rise. This habit is one I am working towards. Pretty sure this is really a sneaky way for me to have to set another resolution — get to bed earlier than midnight so I can wake refreshed at 6:30 or 7:00am, not the 7:30 that feels so luxurious.

Drink Water

If you read my post, A Tale of Caffeine and Dehydration, then you already know being dehydrated makes us — ok, ME — irritable. One supposition is that our neurons detect dehydration and warn the parts of the brain that affect our mood. Not enough water? The neurons hit the “bad mood” button. You’ll know if you’ve drunk enough water to improve your mood if your pee is clear or pale yellow. Wheeeeee Peeeeeee!

Exercise With a Group

Bouldering at Lizard's Mouth

I’ll be happy when I get down safely and into my step class!

Imagine how happy I felt reading this as a group fitness instructor for the past 33 years. Want to work harder while feeling happier? Being part of a team or group increases your intensity and endorphin levels more than when you train alone. Could this be the year you try group exercise classes or continue through the year? I have space in my classes for you! Perhaps a master’s level team sport is in your near future.

Exercise Consistently

Cardio workouts are brain boosters; exercise in general reduces stress; even a few months of activity can reverse age-related memory impairment. Now that you are so smart, remember that regular, ongoing exercise rewires your brain for the better. Low stress, younger brain, and a good memory? That spells “H-A-P-P-Y better than a crossword puzzle clue if you ask me.

Eat Chocolate

Eat chocolate

Science from CocoaVia tells me cocoa flavanols help me live well!

Who cares the reasons?!*  The fact that cocoa flavanols are good for us (in moderate doses) is just plain old good news. Enough said.

* For those of you who want the reasons, hold on a minute while I lick the dark chocolate from my typing fingers. Basically, chocolate (specifically the flavanols) releases endorphins and calms us. Yes, it’s all in the mind. And mouth.

 Eat Mood Enhancing Foods

Dark green veggies, turkey, salmon, tuna, sunflower seeds, walnuts, black beans, — these and other foods high in tryptophan or glutamine positively affect your neurotransmitters. Get naturally high without medication! How many of you noticed that eating happy foods causes the opposite of being dehydrated?

Listen to Music

Photo bombing or singing at Glen Ivy Spa
Singing in My Pain, Just Singing in My Pain. Alexandra is Happy
Doing a Selfie Again

Who wants to hear me sing? Debatable whether this will enhance your mood. Hmmm. Or you can hear Alexandra tra la la in many of our past radio episodes. Also debatable about the effect. We can say that if you listen to music you like, you will pump out dopamine (happy hormones) faster than Ahhhnold Schwarzenegger pumped it up back in the day. Tunes you enjoy give you an emotional rush. I now await a music company sponsor for this tip.

Choose the Right Biological Parents

Yes, it’s true and I’d be amiss not to confirm that genetics plays a role in your disposition. If born rich, I’d be happy! Oh, wait. That’s not really what we’re talking about here. Inherited tendencies determine about one third of our happiness level. So quit griping if your mom and dad were negative Norman and Nellie. You have two thirds of the story to write yourself. Especially if you follow the tips above!

I know I’ll sure be happier if you:

1) Follow us on Google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter:  AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.

2) Pick up the phone or email us to book us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.