We all know that to be healthy, we should eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest, and drink lots of water. Total health, though, isn’t only about being physically healthy. When thinking about your well-being, you should consider your overall health, including your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
There are many unexpected habits you can develop to create positive changes in your overall health. Here are six overlooked habits every woman should develop for her health.
Do you regularly dedicate time in your day to being grateful? Research has consistently demonstrated gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Regular gratitude practices have been scientifically proven to help you sleep better, reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem and even lower the risk of depression.
A gratitude practice doesn’t have to be extremely involved or take a lot of time. Try starting your day by thinking of five things you’re grateful for every morning. Or you can make a nightly gratitude list before going to bed each night. Adding gratitude to your life is a small change that can have a large impact on your well-being.Research demonstrates that gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Click To Tweet
Most of us know what the number on the bathroom scale reads without even checking, but how well do you know the other numbers related to your health? Can you spout off your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood glucose numbers from memory? Many of us can’t, so instead we trust our medical professionals to track the information for us.
Educating yourself about your personal health information is extraordinarily important. It can help you to understand what’s normal for you, and it will give you the confidence to push your doctor to look deeper at something when you know something isn’t right.
Tracking your medical information can seem daunting, but you can use a simple online program such as My Medical to track all your records in one place. You can also access the records from anywhere, which can come in extremely handy in an emergency.
Most people recognize doing volunteer work has positive effects on your mental and emotional well-being. But did you know it can be good for your physical health too? A study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found a link between people who volunteer regularly and lowered blood pressure.
In addition to the health benefits, volunteering is a great way to meet people with similar interests and to share your expertise with people who need it. You can find volunteer opportunities in your area at VolunteerMatch.org.
As a woman, taking care of yourself is something that gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do. Self-care is critically important to our well-being though. As women, we often feel as though we have to give to others first and put ourselves last. But if you’ve completely worn yourself down and left no time for rejuvenation, you have nothing left to share with others anyway. By taking the time to care for yourself first, you’ll find you have even more energy and time to share with others.
Self-care rituals don’t have to be time-consuming either. By taking time throughout the day to check-in and care for yourself, you’ll be less likely to find yourself completely drained. If you’re not sure where to start with self-care, check out this list of 45 simple self-care practices to get started.
It might be easier to say yes when someone makes a request of you, but it’s not easier on your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, while it might initially feel more stressful to say no to a request, it can relieve stress in the long run. Simply because a request is a worthy one doesn’t mean you have to be the person to do it.
Consider new commitments carefully before agreeing. If you don’t feel like enthusiastically saying yes, then you’re probably better off saying no. It will give someone else the opportunity to participate and reduce the stress you feel from overcommitting yourself.
While excessive drinking can have serious health repercussions, research has consistently demonstrated drinking wine in moderation (one glass per day for women) can have positive effects in a variety of health-related areas. Moderate wine consumption, specifically red wine, has been shown to improve memory function, prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, reduce the risk of cancer, improve bone mass and reduce blood sugar problems, among many others.
You should still pay attention to the activities traditionally associated with good health, such as eating right and exercising. As you can see from this list, though, there are also a lot of nontraditional ways to improve your health and overall well-being.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock, provided by LaToya
Action: Subscribe to our blog. Read the posts with a glass of wine. Do it for your health.
Bio: LaToya has been involved in the fitness and health world for more than 25 years. An author and researcher, she has written extensively on topics ranging from alternative medicines to cutting-edge fitness programs. She now writes for eHealth Informer. LaToya has a passion for self-improvement and wants to make sure you have the tools and confidence you need to reach your goals, no matter your age or ability.
Need more support to embed healthy habits? These posts may help:
Like most women over fifty, I was brought up not to hit or harm anyone. Girls don’t hit. End of story. Words such as jab, hook, counter punch were not words I used.
But then, there I was at my local gym, on a stair-climbing machine, putting in my obligatory thirty minutes. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman of a certain age, like myself, boxing. She was giddy, smiling and sweaty, jabbing with her pink gloves, swiveling hips, moving her entire body in a dancing rhythm, and having fun. And fun was not what I was having on the stair climber. Why couldn’t I box, I thought? Why couldn’t I have so much fun at the gym? I wanted what she was having.
Yes, us, women over fifty! I am here to tell you that boxing is simply the best cardio gift we can give ourselves. Fitness boxing—sometimes called non-contact boxing because you never hit another person—isn’t brutish or aggressive. So, here I am, age 64, with my own red boxing gloves and some newly-defined muscles, having almost too much fun at the gym.
At first, I kept thinking “this isn’t something I should be doing—really, is it okay to hit?” But with each jab, I overcame my reluctance as I punched the trainer’s resistance mitts. This deeply-ingrained cultural training—girls don’t hit—prevents most women over fifty from considering boxing. But nobody is hitting me, and I’m not fighting anyone. No gritty boxing ring is needed. And as I’m learning the techniques of boxing from my trainer, Kingsley, I’m appreciating the beauty in the sport, especially the artistic athleticism it requires. In boxing, power starts in the hips, requiring every muscle to serve a purpose, linking hands and hips in a dancer’s rhythm.Women Over 50: Have you thought of strapping on boxing gloves? This 64 year old found fun and fitness w/boxing Click To Tweet
If you’ve never thought about how much fun it would be to hit that punching bag at your gym– if words such as jab, cross, hook, and uppercut aren’t in your vocabulary yet—buy or borrow a pair of boxing gloves.
One day I hope, in the words of Muhammad Ali, “to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”—light on my feet, with a quick, penetrating jab. I’m not there quite yet, but I’m hooked–hooked on boxing.
Bio: Nancy Sommers loves boxing and cycling, swimming and hiking, yoga and pilates–all fabulous and fun ways to stay fit. When she’s not boxing, she’s writing blogs, essays, and college textbooks. Nancy directed the Harvard College Writing Program and now teaches writing at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
ACTION: Please comment below to let Nancy know what you think of boxing as a way to Hit to Get Fit! Might you give it a go?
Our friend and colleague, Debbie is a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, fitness club director, running coach, and repeat dog rescuer, who blogs over at Coach Debbie Runs. She isn’t quite as tough as this post makes her sound. She has been working with a mature population for many years and understands how to lure exercise haters into a healthier lifestyle. She hopes you will check out her blog for inspiration, training programs, and tips on living a plant based, active lifestyle.
By Debbie Woodruff
I didn’t become a personal trainer for the huge amount of money I could make. Nor for the glory and fame that I could achieve. Nope, I became a personal trainer because I believe in health and fitness. Our lives are much better when we exercise.
Which is good because there hasn’t been a much fame, glory, or money involved. But I do know I’ve made a difference in a few lives, so that’s a pretty good trade-off.
However, I have grown pretty tired of hearing one comment, not just from clients, but from non-exercisers in general. Various people who come to the gym, friends of clients, even other bloggers will walk in, look disdainfully around at the equipment, the members sweating, the trainers training, and say, “I hate to exercise.”
As a trainer, I used to consider this a challenge. I envisioned working with these people, creating a program for them, finding something that they do enjoy, and they would become lifelong exercisers. Happy ending! Barring that, I could at least make them like me enough to enjoy the time we spent together training.
The problem with the former plan is that it rarely happens. Exercise haters stick to a program for a while, whine and complain a lot, begin to find excuses, then disappear from the face of the gym forever. Or at least until it is time for next year’s new year’s resolutions.
The latter solution isn’t perfect either. A large segment of the population can’t or won’t hire a personal trainer, so I’m missing a large part of the target audience. While I do have a few clients who train with me because they enjoy my company, they would rather chat than work out. And they are terrible at adhering to the other parts of an exercise program normally done on one’s own, like cardio, proper nutrition, and lifestyle changes.
I’m tired of sugarcoating exercise, of trying to make everyone happy, of spending my valuable time convincing exercise haters to enjoy doing something that will make them live longer, feel better, play stronger, and generally have a better life. So, to that end my new mantra is…
Whoever said that everything that you do in life had to be fun? We, all of us, do many things daily that we don’t really enjoy. Do you like brushing your teeth? Cleaning the litter box? Washing the dishes? Vacuuming? Do you do it? Yes, because not to do it would leave you in a very dirty place.
Even if you enjoy your job, you don’t always like it. But you do it because, you know, you need to eat. You clean your house, mow your lawn, help your kid with homework you may not understand yourself. Fun? Not really.
You do all of these things because you have to, need to, are compelled to, whatever. For the most part, you don’t do them because you like them. You may even hate them.
If you spend a half hour three days a week weight training, or some other form of strength building exercise, and take a little time for a walk most days of the week, you can receive benefits way beyond having a clean litter box. You can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. You can reduce your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. You can reduce the pain of many joint diseases, improve your posture and balance, and general overall health. You will feel better. You will look better.
All of this for only two or three hours a week. Many people spend that much time a night watching television.
So suck it up, buttercup. Just get out there and exercise. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it. You need it. It’s important. There are many resources available if you are new to exercise and need a little help getting started. You can contact me if you have question, either in the comments below, here on Kymberly and Alexandra’s Fun and Fit blog. Or run over to my contact page.
Who knows. You might even begin to like working out. A little.
Readers: Is there an exercise mode you HATE? Which do you love (or at least tolerate?) We hope Debbie’s post has inspired you to get moving. You can start by subscribing to our site or by checking out Debbie’s. Toodle oo for now!
Breathe deeply and excitedly because today you get to hear from qualified yoga teacher, holistic wellbeing expert, midlifer herself, Randi Ragan. And she’s so cute to boot, don’t you think?! Get blissed out reading her guest post below. Then PUH-LEEZE breezy breathe over to visit her site, RandiRagan.com.
By Randi Ragan
In particular, women over fifty would seem to be ideal candidates for realizing the stress reducing benefits of yoga. Between parenting their children, taking care of aging parents, and figuring out how to save for retirement, midlife women have major changes happening in their lives and bodies, including:
If you haven’t taken the opportunity to try yoga for yourself, here are five great reasons you may want to check it out.
Yoga originally was designed to subtly affect the body for the purpose of insight or self-knowledge. With regular practice, yoga confers a calm fluidity from its baseline cultivation of internal grace. Yoga also breaks up the patterns that bind us, transforming our energy. Through the practice of the physical postures, our mental, emotional and spiritual postures begin to change as well. They become more balanced, calm, and focused, giving us a new way of coping with life’s inevitable ups and downs.
Holistic Wellbeing expert Randi Ragan is the author of A Year Of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nurture Body, Mind and Spirit, to be published in 2016 by Quest Books. She can be found at randiragan.com, her mindful living almanac and blog, and @randiragan on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, with daily inspiration for vibrant seasonal living. She is also the founder and owner of the award-winning GreenBliss EcoSpa, named one of Los Angeles’s Top 10 Holistic Spas its very first year in business (2006). Prior to being a business owner, Randi was a yoga and meditation teacher for 12 years. During that time she led yoga and spiritual retreats in California, Mexico and Hawaii, and formed The Blessing Works, which specialized in the creation of customized healing ceremonies and rituals for its clients. Randi lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 13 year old daughter.
Readers: Help Randi feel welcome by commenting below. What do you do to reduce stress? Have you tried yoga? How did your body respond?
Debra Atkinson, Guest Poster
You are going to get a kick out of this guest post by the highly qualified, fully irreverent, fitness professional, and midlife specialist, Debra Atkinson MS, CSCS. After she interviewed us for her podcast, WellUAfter50’s, we knew you would enjoy her style and substance! We also hope you listen to the episode with Debra and us, Better Sex, Arms, and Knees as You Age. After you read her solutions for hormone hell below.
Sleep Tight and Right
If you’re short-sheeting yourself on sleep your belly fat may thrive. When sleep is down, cortisol is up. We know cortisol as a houseguest we didn’t invite. Truth is some healthy hormone stress is good. If you’re sleep deprived though, two other ho’s play games on you. Ghrelin tells you that you’re hungry and usually not for carrots and kale. On the flip side of things, when you’re low on sleep, Leptin never tells you that you’re full. Cortisol is going to help you store the extra calories from cravings in your belly. Not the kind of help you want.
Get Anti-Inflammatory Exercise
Now you’re thinking, “I’ve heard about aerobic and intervals, what’s the anti-inflammatory workout?” Look for exercise that keeps cortisol levels from going too high. A little cortisol for a short time is a good thing. Too much cortisol for too long is going to take advantage of your stress levels and elevate cortisol. Growth Hormone is another factor in your best exercise plan. You want to get the most growth hormone for the least cortisol. They’re on the teeter-totter playing nicely together. For best results we want higher growth hormone than cortisol. What works best? Short sessions of higher intensity intervals (bursts of your best effort) and longer sessions of moderate exercise. Take a moderate walk in nature without being a slave to a heart rate monitor and you’ve got a great cortisol reducing, immune system enhancing groove on.
Embrace Your Stress
All these years we’ve been told how bad stress is for your health. Run, Forrest, Run, they said. New news is that you don’t have to hire the mafia to rid yourself of toxic people or “Om” your way through your day. If you change the way you think about your stress you can change your body chemistry. You’ll live better, longer.
Your stress isn’t your stress. The way you think about your stress is the stress.
Studies show people who say they have low levels of stress lived longer and healthier than those with high levels of stress. No surprise, right? New studies also showed that among all the respondents who said they had high stress levels, those who thought the stress was “bad” died sooner. Those who thought stress made them stronger and more resilient lived longer with less incidence of disease.
Correct those well-meaning peeps who want to wallow with you. Surround yourself with some strong-minded stress-resilient friends. You’re still here after all; stress can’t be that bad!
You already know diets don’t work long-term. In fact, our rollercoaster weight loss and weight gain is what got many of us where we are today: frustrated that doing the right thing now doesn’t work. Diets are stress on your body. Women tend to think stress is emotional. It’s about relationships or finances or work pressures. Unfortunately, stress does not discriminate. If you’re exercising too hard or you’re eating too few calories or too much of the wrong thing, that’s also stress. There’s a 25% increase in cortisol among dieters. So, a diet backfires. Reduce calories and increase cortisol. Cortisol increases fat storage and cravings. Stress fat tends to go to the belly.
Wired and tired is the new norm. We’re exhausted but staring at the ceiling. Mid-afternoon if you’re reaching for that java or pop fix, think twice. Caffeine increases cravings by 23%. What happens if you give in and it’s not kale and carrots? Insulin teams up with cortisol and these two belly-fat bullies have their way with you. Once insulin is released all fat metabolism stops. You store and hold fat easier: a skill you don’t even remember working toward.
Try These Strategies
Know how much sleep you need. A simple sleep-need assessment can help. (link to include: http://bit.ly/1CyQtBg) Plan your exercise and plan your exercise-under-stress so you don’t let cortisol go wild. Buff your relationship with stress. Get your bring-it-on attitude staring it down. Take a diet cleanse. Just say no. If you focus on all the right foods you’ll reduce cravings naturally. Treat yourself to fresh foods in abundance and you’ll never have to go hungry again. Your hormones will thank you. They may thank you by dropping a few pounds or inches. Naturally rested with sleep and naturally juiced by plentiful nutrition you’re less likely to reach for a jolt of caffeine. If the urge comes try a natural pick-me-up like lemon or orange water.
You’ll be hormone healed in no time!
Debra Atkinson, MS, CSCS started teaching aerobics in 1984 with big hair, high top Reeboks and leg warmers. Lycra was the fabric of fitness and she embraced it. Over 30-years she’s taught, trained, managed, lectured and presented. Chief of Everything (COE) at Voice For Fitness, she’s a fitness speaker and consultant for personal training businesses. She’s the author of Navigating Fitness After 50: Your GPS For Choosing Programs and Professionals You Can Trust and the coming soon book The After 50 Fitness Formula For Women. Friend her on Facebook.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Recently Alexandra and I served as hosts for the AARP’s Care4YouToo Contest, designed to help caregivers focus on their own health and fitness. Participants from the AARP caregiving community revealed a lot about winning and losing! On the losing side — they reported losing weight and bad habits. On the winning side — not only did 7 people win prizes, but also participants exhibited winning behaviors that helped them become healthier and happier.
Caregivers have a particularly challenging task taking care of their own health. (More on this subject with solutions at this post on Caregiving and Exercise. Click to read.) Yet, as this contest revealed, they do find ways to help themselves as they help others.
As many baby boomers already know, caregiving itself is so overwhelming that tackling huge, unspecified goals such as “getting fit,” or “”eating better” are doomed as they become one more big item on the neverending “to do” list. Contest participants reported that small changes led to success. Some of their small steps?
As one caregiver in the AARP caregiving community pointedly said: “even the smallest changes or the smallest actions done repeatedly will, over time, make measurable progress. I am applying this to everything that is ‘out of control’, the mail, magazines, newspapers, clippings, laundry, grocery shopping, yardwork, housework, demands on my time.”
Keep in mind that caregivers are among the most time pressed, life stressed, energy depressed group. (Oooh, do you like what I did with that sentence?) Nevertheless they were able to find and celebrate small successes. Being aware of progress, no matter how minor, inspired them to to continue with their efforts.. When the going got tough, the tough got going – with self-praise, a plan, a refocus on what they had managed to achieve. So focus on what you have accomplished, rather than on how far you still have to go or temporary setbacks.
Bad news often serves as a catalyst for change. Ideally you won’t have to face adversity to be inspired to make behavior changes for the better, as the following people reported.
Those who made positive and permanent changes tended to share their successes, challenges, and goals. They reached out for support when they needed it. They congratulated others who overcame pitfalls or reached milestones. They listed their own achievements.
Whether your support group involves two friends, your entire family, a bunch of work buddies, online strangers, a Facebook group (such as the ones we belong to on Facebook. Email us or add a comment if you want us to invite you into any of our online midlife women communities), or a structured event such as the AARP Care4TouToo contest, your odds of succeeding improve when you progress with others.
To paraphrase one of the winners of the AARP Care4YouToo contest, these strategies may not be easy, but they are simple. You CAN do it! Ask your community and they’ll tell you.
Read this post for more strategies on how to improve your health and lose weight when you have heavy demands on your time, emotions, energy, and resources.
Then book us to speak at your events: (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Improve your move when you go to our YouTube channel for short videos that will improve your active aging adventure! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
Though there were hundreds of vendors in the Expo Hall, I shall share seven that grabbed my attention.
The founders wanted to make a substitute that tasted like meat, and they’ve achieved their goal. Free of gluten and cholesterol, the 100% plant protein beef and chicken products are also non-GMO. Great flavor. The ingredients list for the beef crumbles: Water, non-GMO pea protein isolate, non-GMO expeller-pressed canola oil, beef flavor (yeast extract, maltodextrin, natural flavoring, salt, sunflower oil, onion powder), rice flour, tomato powder, caramel color, contains 0.5% or less of: calcium sulfate, evaporated cane juice, potassium chloride, oregano, dried marjoram, ground basil, lemon juice concentrate, citric acid, black pepper, salt, dried thyme, dried rosemary, red chili pepper flakes, onion extract, garlic extract.
Cute compression fitness apparel that assists with posture support and pain relief. As we mentioned in one of our six posts about posture, it’s important to “zip” down the back as well as up the front. When I stopped at the IntelliSkin booth, they emphasized this aspect too. Technology truly is being woven into our clothing, just as predicted in this 2007 article about the fitness facility of the future.
My very first aerobics job was in 1983 in West Berlin, and this is the mineralwasser I drank when I lived there. So to me, Gerolsteiner has been around for a long time, though it is definitely new to the U.S. In the 80s, I drank it because I liked it. Now I know about its health aspects too. No calories, no sugars, and no preservatives, it’s even sold in glass bottles, as plastic bottles are known to have phthalates. With over 2,500 mg/ minerals per liter (yup, the Germans don’t do quart measurements), the three main minerals are calcium (bones, teeth), magnesium (metabolism, muscle & nerve function), and bicarbonate (regulates acidity). Even though it’s the world’s #1 sparkling natural mineral water, Gerolsteiner is just now coming to the U.S. so you might have to request it from your local grocery store. And I don’t think they’ll mind if you pronounce it wrong.
If you don’t want to leave your workout machine to get some wipes, you no longer have to, as this is a packet of wipes that attach to an arm band. The sales crew at the booth had me at “helps prevent staph infections” because my son got staph when he wrestled in high school, and it was serious. The website is under partial construction, as the Wypes are brand new, but don’t let that deter you from spending $3.79. Total deal.
Okay, nuts aren’t new. But I did learn that peanuts are not a tree nut. The nine that are: Brazil, almond, hazelnut, walnut, pistachio, pecan, cashew, macadamia and pine nuts. The council had research papers that I grabbed, knowing you’d be interested in the health findings. I read that tree nuts are inversely associated with both metabolic syndrome and obesity, and total and cause-specific mortality , plus associated with decreased health risk factors for cardiovascular disease. I happen to love almond milk, and am glad it’s working with me and my body. I still hate Brazil nuts.
As the owner of four pairs of Ahnu Shoes, I was stoked (70s organic-y, surfer expression) to see them at the Expo for the first time, showcasing their super attractive footwear. We even got to meet the co-founder, Jacqueline van Dine (a good Dutch name if I ever heard one). Now owned by Deckers (conveniently based in our town of Santa Barbara), Ahnu has a catalogue full of cute shoes. We even got a sneak preview of their upcoming line, which made us drool a little bit on ourselves. And they follow the Ethical Supply Chain Guidelines.
With a mission to “provide style choices for women that spark interest in fitness and promotes healthy lifestyles in mind, body, and spirit,” this company makes dumbbells and kettlebells that are cute and colorful. Not just a single color – boring. These weights come in pink camo, floral blue, cheetah, zebra and hope. I had fun playing with these at the booth. And I like their tag line – Strength Comes in Many Colors.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
One last thing – I’ve seen the various celebrity ice bucket challenges (fundraisers for the fight against ALS) going around, and saw a big one live at the convention, when the founders of IDEA joined up with some of the fitness industry’s leaders for a group ice-freeze, but had no interest in doing one myself, especially here in drought-stricken California. But this morning my nephew wanted to tag me, so I agreed because I believe in the project (if not the waste of water) and couldn’t say no to a kid. Known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is well known to the fitness industry, due in large part to our long-standing relationship with Augie Nieto, founder of Life Fitness and Augie’s Quest. I hope you watch my video and go tag three people with your own video. Of course, the point is to raise money, which seems to be working.
Go forth and be healthy! Challenge yourself to something new today.
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
If you read only one fitness book, this is the one. It includes answers to 125 of the most frequently asked fitness questions. Now in its 10th printing, this book combines up-to-date research with practical information for establishing an optimal health, fitness and wellness lifestyle. From exercise instruction and workouts, to wellness and nutrition, Kravitz has been writing, researching and speaking about fitness for over 30 years. He takes complex topics and research results, and explains them in an easy-to-comprehend format.
The title doesn’t do justice to the knowledge and science that Grand puts into her exercise selections. The book includes a 12-week progressive program that includes strength training, cardiovascular training, and nutrition to support fat loss and muscle gain, and the recommendations are realistic and achievable. This book has sound advice based on solid research. You can hear Tamara explain why we gain weight in midlife in our radio interview of her: What Can You Do About Hormones, Menopause, and Menopot.
This companion set has one book aimed more toward men, the other toward women, with exercises in both applicable to all exercisers. Effective exercises, lifestyle information and recipes are the three parts to these books. As both a health and fitness coach, Witt is good at explaining the links between emotions, nutrition, humor, a social network, and physical activity. While I disagree with some of his slang terms, and feel the layout could be a bit more polished, the information is trustworthy and written in a way that is suitable for a complete beginner.
These three books cover just about cover everything you need to know in my (pescatarian) opinion! I love reading books about food and nutrition, yet keep coming back to Pollan’s because they make eating and food simple to understand. And he informs, where others preach. He’s also a very good writer, and I love good writing.
The titles of both these books let you know straight away that Nestle writes about the politics of food. If you are concerned about food advocacy and equality, plus food safety, read these. Her strong opinions are informed by research and statistics. In other words, facts! These books will help you become a more-informed decision-maker about what you eat.
Growing up as redheaded, freckle-faced, glasses-wearing, intellectual and sporty identical twins in a family of 5 kids, we had a lot of nicknames as youngsters. Some of the names we actually liked, such as “Bobbsey Twins” and “brainiacs.” The latter appellation must have made an impression as all the neuroscience coming out about the brain’s “trainability” and plasticity really captures my fancy. The link between cognitive enhancement and exercise particularly motivates me to move, think, and try new activities.
After reading dozens of new books on the relationship between movement and the brain, I hope you are inspired to check out my suggestions. But only if you want to be more fit inside and out!
First up, read Spark. Actually, first read our posts about meeting Dr. Ratey, hearing him present highlights from his book, and sitting next to him at dinner without drooling. Ok, I did drool a wee bit as I handed him my book copy to sign. If you want to remodel and transform your brain for peak performance, this book is for you! Warning: You will be so sparked by the brain benefits of movement that you’ll disdain a sedentary life forever after.
If you’ve listened to our radio show or been reading our posts for any duration (I really, really hope you answered “yes” to this “if”), then you’ll know I squee at the knowledge Dr. James Hill imparts with humor and facts galore. You’ll get proven, repeatable, long term weight loss and maintenance solutions when you listen to our recent radio show interview of him — Fat Loss: What Does and Doesn’t Work?
Prefer quick summaries of his talks on reducing obesity or knowing how your “why” affects your weight loss success? Read the write-ups we did after hearing him speak at two events. And of course, you will want to add State of Slim to both your library and cookbook collection. Don’t just add the book to your stacks. Actually read it. You’ll get recipes to unstick your metabolism; you’ll find out the 6 factors successful weight losers have in common, you’ll practically want to move to Colorado. Unless you are me and live in Santa Barbara, CA, in which case my butt is parked (not in “idle” mind you, but revved up).
And the book I am reading now? Glad you asked. See, my brain can make up creative conversations after tackling this list of super resources! After interviewing Dr. Cynthia Green for our radio episode, Your Best Brain Might Be Ahead of You I divebombed into Your Best Brain Ever. Michael Sweeney and Dr. Green give a lot of practical tips broken into short chapters with many examples. Not only will you easily find out what to do to enhance your brain health, but also why and how the brain functions. The two authors present the lowdown on your lobes in a super accessible, comprehensible manner. This book is a quick, easy read. Or I am just so much smarter reading it that it seems that way!
You can read while on cardio equipment; listen to our radio show interviews when on a walk, run, or drive; or simply kick back in the springtime sun and learn as you (don’t) burn (kcals or your skin). That’s a double wordplay for you. Fit brainiac status, here I come!
We make a few cents if you buy glasses from Warby Parker (see our “glasses” link above), which is great. Did we mention they have a Try Before You Buy program?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
I find this “so called” inspirational quote so maddening and wrong. Wrong, I tell you! Stick and stones may break our bones, but words will always affect us!
Last weekend Alexandra and I attended the LA Fitness Expo, an event we suspected attracted few baby boomers, though lots of hard body youngsters. We love youngsters. Between us we have spawned three. Yet, we recognized that “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore” as we looked at the words and messages plastered throughout. (We were at the Expo performing posture assessments on behalf of the attentive, service-oriented, and fun Sherpa company. Like us, they value midlifers).
As Alexandra and I cruised the trade show aisles, we noticed a trend in the key words on booths, marketing materials, t-shirts, and tattoos. (Yes, I read tattoos as there was a lot of bared skin at the expo). The text was so overpowering and thematic, I started a list of words that stood out:
punishment – beast – raw – fight – pound (as a verb, not noun) – brutal – challenge – ultimate – barbed wire (?!)
The overwhelming message was that exercise is painful, should hurt, is hard core, and meaningful only if attacked with full force. Not really sure how the barbed wire fits into the equipment bag, but then I am still getting used to seeing large tires being flipped over as the way to fitness. No wonder our nation is leery of exercise. This journey into “land of the Ueberfit” appears daunting and so negative. “Be All in Or Get Out!” How enticing is that for the new or occasional exerciser who most needs support and motivation??!
I see the same sort of “admonition motivation” all over instagram and Facebook as well. Repeated postings warn us that:
Am I showing a baby boomer undies gap? None of these messages encouraged me to work out. All of them are negative with an aspect of alienation. They made me want to ice my knee joint, take a nap, and hide my menopot under layered workout wear with a lot of give. Or run away, but without the running.
If I felt excluded and overwhelmed — with a lifetime of being active as a former aerobics competition winner, athlete, and fitness professional with 33 years in gyms and clubs — how do most midlife women feel when bombarded with such messages? Exercise is not just for lean and fit hard bodies. It’s for every body. Especially the soft bodies.
As fitness professionals, my sister, many of our colleagues, fellow healthy living bloggers, and I hope to motivate you to move. Often. Consistently. With joy when possible. Age actively for all the positive reasons. Don’t “whip yourself into shape.” Instead acknowledge your progress. Celebrate your movement minutes. Find what you enjoy and do that. If we want to stay active for a lifetime, we have to enjoy the process. I am positive about that, you ultimate raw beasts!
Readers: What do you think of the perennial classic “No Pain, No Gain”? Do you have a favorite exercise quote?
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Back in 1983, I was invited by Kymberly to come to West Berlin and join her in teaching at a club that offered a new kind of program – aerobics! As we had grown up with dance and soccer, it sounded like an ideal way to travel and earn money.
Kymberly told me to take a few classes at the Jane Fonda Studio (I lived in L.A. at the time) so that I could figure out what the aerobics hoopla was all about. Besides learning some cardio moves and instructional tips, my forays to the Jane Fonda classes taught me a lot about spot poaching. People really like “their” spots in the group fitness room! But I digress.
When I flew to Berlin, my sis spent the week giving me teaching tips so I’d be ready for my first class. The two that really stuck with me were, “If you forget what comes next, do eight more of whatever you’re currently doing,” and “Smile and make eye contact.” I still use those tips on the instructors I mentor and train.
Thanks to her, I got to live and work in Berlin, including a stint on the U.S. military’s TV channel there, demonstrating exercises. If only Kymberly and I had owned video cameras back then!!
When I got back to the States, I taught aerobics as a way to make money while I studied Russian at San Diego State University. What started as a side job then turned into a 30-year (and still going strong) career. When IDEA Health and Fitness Association needed fitness writers, my sister recommended me, and I’ve now had hundreds of articles published (and am an editor too). I’ve traveled to many parts of the world as a fitness leader, and met thousands of active, happy people. Even better, I’ve met thousands of inactive people who became active once they found how much joy and energy they got from moving and exercising. More importantly, my boys have spent their entire lives as part of an active family that values health. They see movement and good nutrition as normal.
If Kymberly hadn’t talked me into moving to Berlin, I doubt I would have become an instructor. Upon reflection, it’s funny how one seemingly minor decision led to an entire lifestyle. I live #FitClean.
Remind me to tell you some of the funny stories about Alexandra learning to cue aerobics in German. Or the time I borrowed her workout gear without asking for one of the TV episodes she was not in. Oops – forgot she planned to watch the show.
Anyway, my fitness inspiration is my mom. Growing up in the 60’s in Hermosa Beach, CA was a lot of fun and the decade we got a black and white TV. But that inspir-poopy mom of ours limited our tv time to two hours … per WEEK! From a list of approved shows. What’s a baby boomer girl to do with only 4 siblings, a big front and back yard, a ping pong table, and a trampoline when she can’t watch the telly? Why, play and fight outdoors of course!
Our mom taught modern and performance dance when we were young. Twice a week she would take us all with her to the dance studio, where we’d join in the classes and productions. That meant we also rehearsed at home, made up dances for each other, and generally leapt about the house with dramatic flair and em-PHA-sis. Always moving, always moving.
As well, mom (and dad) encouraged us all to play sports. Keep in mind this was pre-Title IX when sports did not really exist much for girls. Heck, girls had to wear dresses or skirts to our elementary school — no pants or shorts allowed. In a family with four girls and one boy (the baby, poor thing), my mom was quite progressive for her time. She instilled in us a confidence and belief that girls could do everything boys could do, both academically and athletically. When AYSO (American Soccer Youth Organization) FINALLY formed the first ever girls’ soccer teams, my parents enrolled Alexandra, our younger sister, and me lickety split. Around then, my mom went back to college to get a Master’s Degree in Dance (the first of a few advanced degrees). So you can see that she valued movement. Or time away from a passel of kids. We’ve always wondered.
Never once did she nag any of us about our weight, though she did have strict rules about food. No sodas, max of one piece of candy per day (Two after Halloween. Whoo hoo! Live it up!), no sugary cereals (“Please let us have Captain Crunch or Sugar Pops, please!), dessert only after dinner. Mom herself was never on a diet, nor did I ever hear her express dissatisfaction with her own body. The focus was on how our bodies moved and functioned, not how they looked. Only in hindsight do I realize she was an anomaly among her peers in that she had no eating or weight issues.
When I left for Berlin after college, ultimately teaching at the first aerobics studio on the European continent, my mom gave me great advice: “Have a wonderful time; make lots of memories; be open to new things; find many adventures; don’t fall in love and stay abroad!”
Yup, even though she’d miss me, she supported my going far away — first learning to teach fitness, then training new instructors throughout the world. But I heard my mom’s message – move across the globe, move to music, move others to move. Then come back to the States!
Our mom just celebrated her 84th birthday. Guess how? She drove herself to her weekly acting class followed by her twice weekly aqua aerobics class. I think it was the two birthday cakes that inspired her. She does have a sweet tooth these days. She’s earned it! Thanks mom for inspiring me to be active all my life!
Who inspires you to live #FitClean?
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