Exercise Motivation: 6 Tips You’ve Never Heard Of

The most popular day to exercise is “tomorrow.”

To pump up your motivation, we know the classic tips: find a workout partner so you’re accountable, make your intentions known so you feel social pressure, set a deadline like running a 5K or your 20th reunion. Now, it’s not to say that these tips don’t work. They do. It’s just that we’ve heard them before.

So how about six tips you’ve never heard of? For all of us whose favorite curls are the cheese kind, here are six ways to get a running start.

Tip #1: Remember a good exercise experience.
A brand-new, 2014 study found that you can use memory to enhance motivation. Study participants who described a positive exercise memory were not only more motivated to exercise, they actually exercised more over the next week than those who weren’t prompted to remember. So stash your medal from the 5K when you ran your personal record with your exercise clothes, pack your power walking playlist with songs from the wedding where you danced all night, or tape a picture of the view from the summit of your favorite hike next to your boots. The good memories may pave the way to a good sweat.

Tip #2: Don’t aim to “exercise;” instead, play a sport.
A 2005 study found that when participants were asked about reasons for playing a sport, they thought of intrinsic reasons, like enjoyment and challenge. Reasons to “exercise,” however, were extrinsic and focused on things like appearance, weight, and stress management.

Psychology 101 will tell you that intrinsic motivation makes you more likely to start and stick with a new habit. So sign up for softball, join the masters’ swim team, play ultimate Frisbee, or simply tweak your mindset: your Saturday afternoon bike ride suddenly becomes the sport of cycling.

Tip #3: Don’t work out next to the fittest person at the gym.
A creative 2007 study examined how your fellow gym-goers affect your workout. Researchers hung out around the lateral pull-down machine at a college gym. When a woman started using it, a super-fit female confederate started using the next machine over. Half the time, she wore a tank top and shorts. The other half of the time, she wore pants with extra thigh padding and a baggy sweatshirt. In a third control condition, the confederate didn’t work out at all.

What happened? Women working out next to the tank top used their machine for a shorter amount of time than the other two conditions. And, when researchers later approached and asked women to take a short survey, they reported lower body satisfaction. By contrast, women working out next to the baggy sweatshirt exercised longer and didn’t suffer the same hit to body image.

What does this mean for women? Run on a treadmill behind a 19-year-old in size 0 booty shorts and you’ll probably leave sooner and feel bad about yourself. Run on a treadmill behind an average-looking person and you’ll likely leave after a good workout with your body image intact.

Tip #4: Don’t motivate yourself by thinking about your muffin top or flabby abs.
Yes, you heard that right. Both men and women often motivate themselves to exercise by thinking about their appearance. But it turns out this approach backfires.

A 2014 study found that frequent exercise goes along with a positive body image, which was defined as appreciating one’s body, focusing on how it feels, and being satisfied with what it can do. Makes sense so far. But, for gym bunnies whose main goal was just to look hot, all three components of positive body image weakened no matter how much they exercised. The take home? Consider changing your focus to something other than your thighs or tummy.

Tip #5: Customize your workout in little ways.
The power of small choices was demonstrated in a brand new 2014 study where participants who chose the sequence of their exercises did more sets and reps than those who were given a predetermined sequence. So don’t just slavishly follow the order on your lifting log or go down the line of weight machines. Think about what you want to do and you just may find yourself doing more.

Tip #6: Stop thinking of yourself as lazy.
Think of yourself as someone who exercises, or someone who is healthy, or whatever exercise-friendly identity you’d like to adopt. The human psyche goes to great lengths, sometimes unconsciously, to be consistent with one’s identity. So thinking of yourself as a harried, stressed-out person creates a self-fulfilling prophecy with little room for exercise. But thinking of yourself as a really busy healthy person might create just the tweak your mindset needs.

So even if you’re someone who thinks running late counts as exercise, try out your favorite of these six tips. We’ll be on our way to being healthier before we can lift another cheese curl.

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3 Signs You Could Be Eating Too Much Protein

It seems food companies are trying to sell us on more protein in just about every aisle of the grocery store. The average adult needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight a day, which comes out to roughly 56 grams of protein a day for men and 46 for women, according to the Institutes of Medicine.

But despite protein showing up on more and more food labels, we’re already getting way more than our 46 or 56 grams. In fact, men ages 20 and over get an average of 98.9 grams of protein a day, and women ages 20 and over get 68 grams, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest What We Eat In America report.

Getting protein is, of course, an important part of a balanced diet. For starters, our bodies simply wouldn’t be able to build and repair its cells without the stuff. We know that high-protein breakfasts can help us keep unhealthy snack urges in check. And according to a new analysis, a diet higher in protein, especially from fish, seems to lower stroke risk.

However, more isn’t necessarily better. “[B]ecause Americans consume so much protein, and there is plenty in foods from both plant and animal sources, and there is no evidence of protein deficiency in the U.S. population, protein is a non-issue,” Marion Nestle, Ph.D, MPH, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, tells The Huffington Post in an email. “Why make it into one? The only reason for doing so is marketing. Protein used as a marketing tool is about marketing, not health. The advantage for marketing purposes of protein over fat or carbohydrates is that it’s a positive message, not negative. Marketers don’t have to do anything other than mention protein to make people think it’s a health food.” (Case in point: A serving of those new protein-packed Cheerios also contains 16 or 17 grams of sugar, depending on the flavor.)

In some cases, more protein can even be problematic. Nestle points out that much of the research is “conflicted and uncertain”, but there are a few things we know so far. Here are three signs your diet might be too heavy-handed on the protein.

You’re gaining weight.
protein weight gain
If you’ve bulked up on the protein in your diet without cutting calories in other areas, you may find yourself gaining weight. In a 2012 study, researchers found that people assigned a high-protein diet gained the same amount of fat as people assigned to a low-protein, high-fat diet, when both groups overate. The high-protein eaters gained more lean body mass, like muscle, as well, TIME reported.

You have kidney problems.
The kidneys take care of some filtering of waste products made when our bodies digest protein, and there’s some evidence to suggest that diets higher in protein put a greater strain on the kidneys to do this crucial job. A 2003 study found that the damage was only noticeable among people with early stages of kidney disease, particularly harmful because these people often are not aware their kidneys are affected, WebMD reported.

You’re dehydrated.
protein dehydration
One of the waste products created by the kidneys during the filtering process is blood urea nitrogen. Researchers and physicians use blood urea nitrogen levels to evaluate kidney function, and it’s also a measure of how hydrated a person is, WebMD reported. In a 2002 study, as protein intake went up, hydration went down, likely because the body has to use more water to flush out that additional nitrogen, Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, CNS, told HuffPost in 2013. Dehydration isn’t necessarily a reason to avoid extra protein as long as water intake is increased simultaneously, she said.

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Losing Weight May Require Some Serious Fun

If you are aiming to lose weight by revving up your exercise routine, it may be wise to think of your workouts not as exercise, but as playtime. An unconventional new study suggests that people’s attitudes toward physical activity can influence what they eat afterward and, ultimately, whether they drop pounds.

For some time, scientists have been puzzled — and exercisers frustrated — by the general ineffectiveness of exercise as a weight-loss strategy. According to multiple studies and anecdotes, most people who start exercising do not lose as much weight as would be expected, given their increased energy expenditure. Some people add pounds despite burning hundreds of calories during workouts.

Past studies of this phenomenon have found that exercise can increase the body’s production of appetite hormones, making some people feel ravenous after even a light workout and prone to consume more calories than they expended. But that finding, while intriguing, doesn’t fully explain the wide variability in people’s post-exercise eating habits.

So, for the new study, published in the journal Marketing Letters, French and American researchers turned to psychology and the possible effect that calling exercise by any other name might have on people’s subsequent diets.

In that pursuit, the researchers first recruited 56 healthy, adult women, the majority of them overweight. The women were given maps detailing the same one-mile outdoor course and told that they would spend the next half-hour walking there, with lunch to follow.

Half of the women were told that their walk was meant to be exercise, and they were encouraged to view it as such, monitoring their exertion throughout. The other women were told that their 30-minute outing would be a walk purely for pleasure; they would be listening to music through headphones and rating the sound quality, but mostly the researchers wanted them to enjoy themselves.

When the women returned from walking, the researchers asked each to estimate her mileage, mood and calorie expenditure.

Those women who’d been formally exercising reported feeling more fatigued and grumpy than the other women, although the two groups’ estimates of mileage and calories burned were almost identical. More telling, when the women sat down to a pasta lunch, with water or sugary soda to drink, and applesauce or chocolate pudding for dessert, the women in the exercise group loaded up on the soda and pudding, consuming significantly more calories from these sweets than the women who’d thought that they were walking for pleasure.

A follow-up experiment by the researchers, published as part of the same study, reinforces and broadens those findings. For it, the researchers directed a new set of volunteers, some of them men, to walk the same one-mile loop. Once again, half were told to consider this session as exercise. The others were told that they would be sightseeing and should have fun. The two groups covered the same average distance. But afterward, allowed to fill a plastic bag at will with M&M’s as a thank-you, the volunteers from the exercise group poured in twice as much candy as the other walkers.

Finally, to examine whether real-world exercisers behave similarly to those in the contrived experiments, the researchers visited the finish line of a marathon relay race, where 231 entrants aged 16 to 67 had just completed laps of five to 10 kilometers. They asked the runners whether they had enjoyed their race experience and offered them the choice of a gooey chocolate bar or healthier cereal bar in consideration of their time and help. In general, those runners who said that their race had been difficult or unsatisfying picked the chocolate; those who said that they had fun gravitated toward the healthier choice.

In aggregate, these three experiments underscore that how we frame physical activity affects how we eat afterward, said Carolina O.C. Werle, an associate professor of marketing at the Grenoble School of Management in France, who led the study. The same exertion, spun as “fun” instead of “exercise,” prompts less gorging on high-calorie foods, she said.

Just how, physiologically, our feelings about physical activity influence our food intake is not yet known, she said, and likely to be bogglingly complex, involving hormones, genetics, and the neurological circuitry of appetite and reward processing. But in the simplest terms, Dr. Werle said, this new data shows that most of us require recompense of some kind for working out. That reward can take the form of subjective enjoyment. If exercise is fun, no additional gratification is needed. If not, there’s chocolate pudding.

The good news is that our attitudes toward exercise are malleable. “We can frame our workouts in different ways,” Dr. Werle said, “by focusing on whatever we consider fun about it, such as listening to our favorite music or chatting with a friend” during a group walk.

“The more fun we have,” she concluded, “the less we’ll feel the need to compensate for the effort” with food.

Original article from The New York Times

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Expert Tips For More Mindful Eating

Unless you’re a competitive eater, there’s really no reason to scarf down your meals. After all, doing the opposite — that is, slowing down — is likely better for your waistline, according to a new review of studies.

The review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 22 different studies that examined food consumption through computerized feedback, human instructions, food texture and utensils used in eating. The results showed that eating slower is linked with statistically significant weight loss.

But how do we slow down when we chow down? Nutrition experts shared their best tips.

1. Take A Seat

Many people eat on the go, meaning they stand while they grab a meal. Whether it’s at your desk, walking down the street or standing around your kitchen counter, “The Biggest Loser” nutritionist and HuffPost blogger Cheryl Forberg, R.D., says this is a clear sign that they’re rushing through a meal to get to something or somewhere else. To stop speed-eating, sit down at a table.

2. Unitask

Many of us veg out in front of the TV, mindlessly shoveling food into our mouths. But as we already know, we’re no good at multitasking, so stop reading the paper or watching reruns while you eat. Focusing on what you’re putting into your mouth can help you slow down and really pay attention to the task at hand. “Enjoy it, savor it and your mindfulness will replace inhaling your meal with a relaxed pace, more enjoyment and better digestion,” Forberg tells HuffPost.

3. Switch Things Up

Having trouble channeling mindful eating? Maybe it’s time to get a little weird. Nutritionist Rochelle Sirota, R.D., C.D.N., recommends adopting some different techniques to help distracted diners slow down and focus. She suggests eating with the nondominant hand, using chopsticks or even setting down the utensil between bites. Eating in an unusual way can help bring back the focus and break quick-eating habits.

4. Socialize

If you’re looking for an excuse to host dinner parties on the regular, here’s your chance. According to Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., nutritionist and founder of Nourish Snacks, eating with others can help fast eaters slow their pace by engaging in conversation. “The more you chat, the slower you eat,” she tells HuffPost.

5. Chew More

Chewing more can both bring the focus back to speed and help taper eating pace, simply because it takes longer to swallow each bite. That’s why nutritionist Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., CSSD and blogger for The Huffington Post, recommends trying to chew for 15 to 20 seconds before swallowing. Leaning toward foods that actually require more chewing — like veggies, fresh fruits and lean proteins, rather than softer casseroles, mashed potatoes, applesauce or ice cream — can also help speed eaters slow down.

6. Avoid Extreme Hunger

Any time we get too hungry, we tend to scarf down our meals without a second thought. But how can we tell the difference between hungry and too hungry? Upton advises paying attention to your body. If you feel hungry, start planning what to eat, but if your stomach is growling and you have hunger pains, you’ve let your hunger go too far. Train yourself to start keeping track and listening to what your body’s saying.

7. Eat Shelled Snacks

Shelled snacks — like peanuts, pistachios and soybeans — slow down eating because it takes time to remove the actual nut or bean from its encasing. They also may provide visual cues that let munchers know when to stop snacking. One study conducted by researchers at Eastern Illinois University found that participants consumed fewer calories from pistachios when they ate shelled ones versus unshelled. That means that shelled snacks kill two birds with one stone, helping eaters consume less and know when to stop.

8. Water Is Your BFF

Water can help you slow your munching in more than one way. Bauer suggests setting down your fork and taking small sips between each bite to stayed focused and regulate speed. Forberg recommends gulping down a glass before you even begin. “This really does help you fill up a bit,” she says. “When we don’t feel as starved at mealtime, we eat more slowly.”

9. Time Yourself

Since time is the problem, why not tackle it directly? Bauer recommends setting a timer to help slow down your eating speed. Ideally, it should take at least 20 minutes to finish a meal, and using a kitchen timer can help retrain rushers until they’ve slowed down.

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5 Low-Calorie Snack Swaps That Will Fill You Up

Eating several small meals a day is one strategy to keep your metabolism constantly revved. But if you’re already putting back a full plate of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, what you’re snacking on in between those meals can really add up. “Besides fueling up before and after a workout, most people don’t need more than one snack between lunch and dinner,” says Melissa Dobbins, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The average American, however, gets 25 percent of their daily food intake — or about 580 calories — from snacks.

So what do you do on those days when you’ve got the munchies? A good option is to limit yourself to a 100- to 200-calorie bite that incorporates fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts or low-fat dairy. A combination of these foods will pack a punch of both protein and fiber, advises Dobbins. “These two nutrients in particular have staying power because they break down more slowly and don’t trigger the insulin release that refined carbs do,” she says. Whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or are always battling savory cravings, here are some healthier replacement recommendations for your go-to snacks.

If you love trail mix…

Reach for raw almonds and dried apricots. Store-bought trail mix can have extra sugar from chocolate candies or be loaded primarily with peanuts. Almonds offer more iron, calcium and vitamin E. “Pairing them with dried fruit adds some satiating fiber,” says Dobbins. Apricots pack some concentrated calories, so a little goes a long way. Stick with an ounce of almonds (approximately 22 nuts) and about three apricots to stay around 200 calories.

If you love potato chips…

Reach for sprouted-grain chips. There’s little nutritional value (aside from 187 calories and 12.5 grams of fat) in a serving of these greasy crisps, but put a spin on how they’re made and it becomes a healthier alternative. “When a grain, seed or bean is allowed to sprout a little bit, it opens up the hard outer shell and releases the nutrients inside, such as fiber and protein,” explains Dobbins. Simply Sprouted Way Better Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips, for example, contain 170 calories and nine grams of fat per serving — plus three grams of fiber and a dose of vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.

If you love granola bars…

Reach for a nut bar. “Many granola bars are just glorified candy bars,” says Dobbins. “When we eat refined grains, they burn quickly and just keep making us hungrier for more.” Break that cycle with an option made of whole grains and nuts, such as the new line of Strong & Kind bars. They’re slightly sweet and savory, contain no hydrogenated oils or refined carbs and pack in 10 grams of protein and nine amino acids from legumes, nuts and seeds.

If you love ice cream…

Reach for Greek yogurt with strawberries. A sweet treat seems so tempting when you need a pick-me-up — but the sugar will eventually leave you crashing. Greek yogurt can curb your craving for something creamy while providing 17 grams of protein to keep you full and only five grams of sugar. Plus, it’s a more concentrated source of probiotics than regular yogurt, says Dobbins, which can help your body digest food, absorb calories and keep your immune system strong. Satisfy your sweet need with a cup of sliced strawberries, according to the USDA, for just 50 calories, you’ll add three grams of fiber and get your daily recommended intake of vitamin C covered.

If you love cheese and crackers…

Reach for low-fat cheese and carrots. Dobbins suggests opting for pre-packaged varieties of this dairy staple, like low-fat string cheese or cheddar cheese sticks, to take the guesswork out of serving sizes. “You have to watch portion size or your snack can easily become a small meal,” she says. Skip the sodium and hydrogenated oil–loaded crackers and instead pair your savory treat with chopped carrots; they offer more calcium, vitamins A and C and potassium than baby carrots.

Before you munch on anything between meals, ask yourself if you’re actually hungry or just feeding an emotion like boredom or anxiety, advises Dobbins. Then once you’ve given yourself the green light to snack, stick to one of these healthier alternatives to your favorites; they’ll give you the energy you need to get on with your day without weighing you down.

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