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Weight Loss Tips For When The Scale Won’t Budge

Whether the scale hasn’t budged for one week or six, it’s always a frustrating experience — especially when you feel you’re doing everything “right” to get the weight off. But before you start beating yourself up or throw in the towel on your healthy eating plan, know that you’re not alone.

“The first thing our research shows is that everything hits a plateau,” says Bob Sullivan, co-author of The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success. “Every good idea, diet program, marriage and professional athlete eventually stops working,” says Sullivan. “This is the most confusing thing about any endeavor, and it’s particularly frustrating for people trying to lose weight.” Luckily, there are ways to turn things around — though some methods aren’t as obvious as others.

For instance, eating way less might get the scale moving. But cutting calories has its limitations, and in fact, seems to stop working after a while, says Sullivan. The same goes for the same old workout routine — eventually you’ll need to mix things up, add some high-intensity intervals and challenge the body in new ways. Pairing proper nutrition and a challenging workout routine is, of course, a winning combination. But there are a few more ways to help you bust through that weight loss plateau. Here are seven expert-backed tips on how to reach your goal weight, the healthy way.

1. De-emphasize the scale.
Most physicians would readily agree that the scale alone is a very incomplete metric, says Sullivan. Being healthy involves dozens of measurements, and utilizing more of them will help you realize how far you’ve come and help you set new goals, he says. Perhaps you aren’t moving the scale but you’re lowering your heart rate, reducing belly fat or improving your cholesterol numbers. Start taking measurements so you can see how your body composition is changing by shedding fat and building lean muscle when your weight stays the same. Being able to fit into a smaller size? Now that’s a milestone worth celebrating!

2. Enlist an honest buddy.
A solid support system is a must when you need that extra push to reach your goals. Whether that’s a friend with similar goals or a significant other who just knows how you’re wired, find someone you can be completely honest with about how you’re doing, says Dr. Susan Albers, psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Family Health Center and author of Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence. Having someone to check in with daily or at least a few times a week will keep you accountable and may help you stay on track when faced with temptation. Knowing you’ll have to tell your weight loss buddy you went back for second helpings may help you put the kibosh on that habit.

3. Don’t break old habits — start new ones.
Instead of trying to break old eating habits, form new healthy habits to crowd out the old ones, says Dr. Albers. “It’s easier to form a new habit instead of breaking an old one you struggle with.” So if your old tendency is to have ice cream every night, try swapping the ice cream for non-fat yogurt with granola and factor that into your daily calorie intake, Dr. Albers suggests. Taking control with a positive mindset can help you stay motivated to stick to your healthy eating plan and make it more fun. Keep in mind that diet boredom and eating the same old foods could also be a factor in your plateau.

4. Give yourself a hand.
It’s common to overeat because you’re bored or upset about something (aka ‘emotional eating’). The next time you find yourself diving in for seconds, try tensing your fists to stop yourself from noshing, suggests Dr. Albers. “Clenching your fist while thinking ‘no’ helps you stay true to that behavior. You’re seeing an action and feeling it.”

5. Clean up your environment.
It might seem like an odd way to kick-start weight loss, but getting your home and kitchen organized can help you feel like you’ve got a handle on your weight. “The more in control you feel in your external environment, the more you feel in control internally,” says Dr. Albers. Get rid of the junk (and junk food!), and get your kitchen, home and office in tip-top shape to start inspiring calm and clarity from the inside out.

6. Stop dwelling on your diet.
“The time you spend away from a problem is just as important as the time you spend trying to solve that problem,” says Sullivan. Since you’re not going to be able to eat and exercise perfectly every day, it’s important to avoid stressing over it 24/7. Spending too much time ‘fixing’ a problem limits how far you’ll actually get. “Most people don’t know this, so they keep banging their head against a wall. That’s the very epitome of a mental plateau becoming a physical plateau.” Keep tabs of your daily food intake and workouts, but remember there’s more to life outside the confines of your diet. Keep your interests varied and social life active!

7. Start with today.
The disappointment you feel when you don’t see the number you want on the scale can lead to a dangerous cycle of negative thinking. People don’t really get depressed because the scale reads 152 instead of 150, they get depressed because they feel fat, says Sullivan. This can lead to feelings of fatalism (i.e. “I might as well just eat that quart of ice cream anyway”), which can lead to binge eating, research shows.

To keep from falling off the wagon, have “today-only goals,” suggests Sullivan. Go for a quick run, split that cookie with a friend, skip the sugary cocktail at dinner. Celebrate these small victories to get back a sense of control, power and achievement. “Take care of the little things and the big things will follow.”

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Breathe Your Way To Your Best Workout Yet

So wait, do I inhale through my nose and exhale with my mouth? What’s wrong with mouth breathing in my workouts? I’m so confused!

Mouth and nasal breathing differ dramatically in how they physiologically support the body. How you breathe determines many factors, including how well you’re oxygenating your cells, whether you’re burning fat or sugar, the release of hormones, heart rates, lactic acid build-up, cardiovascular and digestive function and so much more.

So here it is…unless you are in jeopardy of being eaten by a tiger, nasal breathe on your inhale AND your exhale. Our mouths are designed for eating and our noses for breathing. Our mouth triggers the stress response, our nose triggers the relaxation response. It’s that simple.

Our bodies need a balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide to function properly. Only nasal breathing can do this correctly and only nasal breathing can produce nitric oxide, which is a bronchodilator and vasodilator that helps to lower your blood pressure and significantly improves oxygen being absorbed by the lungs.

How often do you workout and feel like the end of your workout was easier than the beginning? Nasal breathing provides body over mind flow states that feel like meditation-in-motion. The key is warming the body up with breathing techniques that activate digestive fire first, then incorporating various nasal breathing techniques to tease and relax the autonomic nervous system.

The restorative qualities of these nasal breathing patterns leave your body feeling refreshed and renewed with virtually no lactic acid build-up. For performance athletes, this is the difference between winning or losing on race day after all the rigors of training.

Tips to Get Started:

  • Begin nasal breathing using the diaphragmatic breath. We recommend practicing this while walking to master how it feels to breathe this deeply as your heart rate rises. Then, take it into your sport or fitness routine. Slow down to master breathing in this way. Yes, you will feel like you’re drowning!
  • Next, use a system of counting on your inhale and exhale. Inhale the breath for a count of three and exhale for six (either strides, pedals or seconds).
  • Create another layer by inhaling for a count of three, holding the breath in for a count of three and exhaling the breath for a count of six.

We recommend practicing each of these individually until you master them, trying the second and third bullets for five to ten minutes each. By the time you’ve got the third breathing pattern down you’ll have yourself a nicely sequenced warm-up. Then, let your body go . . . but don’t stop nasal breathing through the rest of your workout.

As you strengthen your diaphragm muscle, build on your counting. Imagine inhaling for ten, retaining the breath for ten and exhaling for 20. Your body and mind will love this and you’ll never go back to mouth breathing — we promise! Over time, you’ll discover the many yoga breathing techniques to integrate into your workouts and hundreds of ways to sequence them.

Whether you’re a training athlete or fitness enthusiast, there is a science to exercising your body. The body is a vehicle for transformation, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and nasal breathing is the key to unlocking the mysteries of the body.

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10 Totally Free Ways to Burn Calories That Don’t Feel Like Working Out

So you don’t exactly have the bank account to swing surfing lessons or a snowboarding trip, but you still want to move more — without feeling chained to the gym.

Not to worry — there are loads of ways to burn calories that won’t cost you a penny, especially if you’re willing to rummage through your garage or basement first.

Here are a few of our favorite free ways to move more. Let us know in the comments which is your favorite.

Note: All calorie counts are approximate and based on a 150-pound person.

PLAY TAG

It’s like running — in disguise! The little ones in your life will relish a chance to get active with you, and you can burn nearly 150 calories in 30 minutes while you’re at it.

GO FOR A HIKE

Head to the hills! Thirty minutes in nearby public parkland can shed more than 267 calories. Even if you just hike cross-country rather than uphill, you burn 214 calories in 30 minutes. Consider it like your last brisk walk, with better scenery!

KICK THE BALL AROUND

You don’t have to shell out for cleats to throw together a casual soccer match. When 30 minutes burns 250 calories, everybody wins.

TAKE A BIKE RIDE

You don’t have to spend big bucks on flashy gear. Dust off that helmet and take your old bike for a spin. You’ll burn 285 calories in 30 minutes of moderate riding, and even if you keep your efforts light, you can shed 214 in the same amount of time.

SHOOT HOOPS

Make use of that hoop at the nearest park. Just 30 minutes of casual basketball can burn 214 calories.

GO FOR A SWIM

Take a dip in at your nearest free public pool or refreshing lake. Thirty minutes of moderate swimming can burn 250 calories, and even if you keep your splashing around a little more casual, you can still burn 214.

PLAY CATCH

Just about everyone has an old softball or Frisbee in the garage. Grab a partner for a 30-minute toss, and you’ll find yourself down nearly 90 calories.

DANCE

All you have to do is turn on the tunes and shake it. Thirty minutes can knock off 153 calories.

TACKLE CHORES

It’s precisely no one’s favorite method of working up a sweat, but housework is not to be overlooked. Sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, mowing the lawn and other items on your to-do list can burn anywhere from 100 to 200 calories in 30 minutes.

ROLLER BLADE

You might be a little embarrassed to don your old blades, but if they still fit, 30 minutes can torch 428 calories.


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How to Have a Happier Monday

Everyone struggles through weekday drudgery to reach their weekend fun. But what if you could reclaim every day of your life?

Take a minute to look in the mirror right now. Like what you see? Your answer could depend on the day of the week. According to a new survey by the global media agency PHD, we feel least attractive on Sundays and Mondays. This could be because our moods tend to be at their lowest point then. “People can come to feel that the weekends are their freedom time and the weekdays are their grind time,” explains Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and coauthor of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice. The problem with this mind-set is that you start behaving as if you’ve handed over your life to work. “You can end up feeling like a victim during the week,” Firestone says.

But if we all wish our weekdays were more like our Saturdays, maybe that’s because they should be. “When your weekdays aren’t the polar opposite of your weekend, you feel more balanced and your quality of life improves,” explains David Watson, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame. The gap between the weekend and weekday mind-set is massive, but what you have to do to bridge that gap isn’t. Just make these four easy tweaks to your days.

Head off “social jet lag”:
The first step to reclaiming your Mondays is taking a good look at the weekend that comes before it. For starters, Saturdays and Sundays may seem like they’re built for sleeping in, but those endless hours under the covers come with a price. “When you push bedtime and wake-up time later, your body has to shift back from your ‘weekend time zone’ on Mondays,” explains Carl Bazil, M.D., director of the Division of Epilepsy and Sleep at Columbia University. Experts call this effect social jet lag, and it can make that dreaded Monday morning wake-up call (and possibly the ones that follow) tougher. This might help explain why 25 percent of Americans rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on weeknights, according to a 2013 survey by the National Sleep Foundation.

But you don’t have to cramp your weekend style just to save your sleep on weekdays. “Social jet lag really only occurs if you stay up more than two hours past your normal bedtime,” Dr. Bazil says. So if you normally go to bed at 11 p.m. on weeknights, it should be fine to go to bed at midnight or even 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and push your usual wake-up time forward by an hour or two as well. For those occasional but epic all-nighters, Dr. Bazil advises not sleeping in more than two hours later than normal, even if that means clocking less than seven of shut-eye. “That way, you’ll be sleepy for your Sunday-night bedtime,” he says.

Pick two happy meals:
This means revamping another favorite indulgence: that Friday-to-Sunday all-you-can-eat buffet. For most, this is your main time to let loose — and that can translate into eating more and exercising less. “Many women are strict with their diets during the week and only allow themselves to splurge on the weekends,” explains Lisa Young, Ph.D., a nutritionist in New York City and author of The Portion Teller Plan. “This all-or-nothing attitude is an invitation to overeat, and you can go into Monday feeling bloated and dehydrated.” After the pleasures of the weekend, Monday feels like the time to make penance. Between diet remorse and work stress, you can feel doomed.

No human with passion can bear to give up the tasty rewards of the weekend — and you don’t have to. When the weekend arrives, choose a happy meal out a day — and keep eating your healthy go-to foods for the other meals. (So if you have Greek yogurt for breakfast at work, have it for breakfast on the weekend, too.) “Keeping some semblance of your daily routine makes it easier to stay on track,” Young says. Then, spread those indulgences out more. “I tell my clients to go out to dinner once or twice during the week,” Young says. “This way, you don’t feel so deprived by Friday that you end up housing everything in sight.” When your favorite pencil skirt zips up without a struggle on Monday morning, your day — and your week — become less of a struggle, too.

Kiss early wake-ups good-bye:
You’ll kick your week off right if you can avoid those Sunday blues that tend to set in around 5 p.m. They’re an example of what psychologists call anticipatory anxiety, a reaction that flares up when you start thinking about stressful or uncomfortable tasks you have to do in the near future — like dragging yourself out of bed at some godforsaken hour. “This type of anxiety can overwhelm your brain, making you less functional and less happy,” says Rachel Merson, Psy.D., a psychologist at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. To avoid getting to work already in a funk, set your alarm for a reasonable time.

While everyone wants to tackle the week like a superstar (“I’m waking up early and slaying my entire to-do list by noon!”), that mind-set can backfire, leaving you feeling disoriented. “On Mondays, your mind is still transitioning, and every task takes just a little longer to complete than it does on other days,” says Watson. “Go in guns blazing, and you set yourself up for failure.” Another way to make your Mondays a little easier (and more efficient)? Do a bit of prep work on Friday. Before you leave the office for the weekend, take 60 seconds to compile a list of simple to-dos, like emailing your client about a lunch or scheduling the conference room for your sales meeting. Leave the list on your keyboard so that when you come in on Monday, you can warm up from weekend mode with a few basic tasks and not become swamped trying to figure out how to start your day.

Line up a Wednes-date:
The PHD survey found that we feel our most attractive on Thursdays. Coincidentally, that’s when our weekday mood perks up. So what does Thursday have that Monday doesn’t? For one, you’ve gotten most of your stuff done, but it’s also the anticipation factor. “The proximity of the weekend can lead to a mood boost, along with a sense of accomplishment for having checked things off your to-do list all week,” explains Merson. So start building more anticipation into every day of your week, says Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., a psychologist in New York City specializing in anxiety and depression and author of Beat the Blues Before They Beat You. Doing little things for yourself helps you reclaim your week, too: It means you’re prioritizing yourself, not just your job. Map out little pit stops of fun — plan to venture outside of the office cafeteria on Tuesday, see a cheese-ball movie with your boyfriend on Wednesday, or schedule a blowout at your hair salon on Thursday. You might find that every day has something worth celebrating. Yes, even Monday.

What tricks do you use to perk yourself up from the Monday Blues?

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Safety tips for exercising outdoors

Spring is here, and many of us are drawn outside for some well deserved fresh air and exercise. The following list outlines some very basic, common sense safety tips, so that you may enjoy your freedom and get in shape for summer. Still feeling the cold? Don’t worry, these tips work for outside exercise in all seasons.

1. Identification — Carry some form of identification on you. Most exercise gear has small pockets for this very reason. Ideally, you should have your driver’s license and/or a small card that lists your number and the number of an emergency contact.

2. Telephone — Having your telephone with you can help to keep you in touch with family and friends and, if necessary, connect you with emergency services. In cases where cell phone reception is not good or your phone runs out of battery, then it would be great to carry some change for a payphone or even have a phone card tucked away with your identification.

3. No valuable jewelry — Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but not during your work out! Wearing expensive jewelry may bring unwanted attention to you and make you a target of thieves, so leave the fancy watch, rings, earrings, etc. back at home.

4. Partners — Exercising with a partner or group greatly reduces your chance of being targeted. Also, if one of you should get injured or sick, then the other is available to get help and reduce your vulnerability.

5. Know your route — It is best to be very familiar with your exercise route and know where there are any areas which may be potentially dangerous. Running or riding a trail path, even if you know it well, has its dangers — lurking threats, animals and injuries in isolated areas. It is best to travel these with a partner or at least map out your route using your smart phone’s map feature.

6. Family or Friends – Someone close to you should know when you are exercising, where you are exercising and when you are expected back.

7. Vary routes — You should have a few routes which you are very familiar with and change these up so that you are not predictable to someone who may be watching you.

8. Dogs are your best friend — If you own a large dog, then taking him with on a jog helps to deter people from approaching you. Plus, the dog benefits from the extra exercise. If you don’t own a dog, maybe borrow one from a friend or neighbor!

9. Pay attention to your surrounding – It is great to get into the “zone” while exercising, but make sure to stay aware of where you are, who is around you and where you are going.

10. Run against traffic and bike with traffic — This ensures that you are most visible to cars, buses and trucks. When possible, run on sidewalks away from traffic and ride in designated biking lanes.

11. No playlists on headphones — As tempting as it is to help pass the time, don’t wear headphones while exercising outdoors. Your ability to pay attention to potential threats from traffic, barking dogs and other people is greatly reduced when you are listening to music. Wearing headphones also signals to potential threats that you are preoccupied and vulnerable.

12. Be visible — If exercising in the dark then make sure to wear bright reflective clothing. There are many products on the market with reflective material — hats, headbands, vests, arm bands, tops, shorts/pants and shoes.

13. Keep moving — If verbally harassed or called out by an individual or group it is best to keep on moving. If the verbal harassment becomes a physical threat then get to the nearest safe place — business, home or building.

Enjoy your outdoor exercise while keeping an eye on your safety!

Stay safe, live well!

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