Add More Whole Foods to Your Diet

Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia CommonsThe phrase “whole foods” refers to foods that are raw, unprocessed or as close to nature as possible. Whole foods include whole grains, whole raw fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed chicken and meats. It is easier to improve your diet by replacing processed foods with natural, whole foods than you might think. Whole foods are generally lower in calories and carbohydrates than highly processed foods such as frozen dinners and fast food. Switching from processed to whole foods means meal preparation will take a little more planning, but your health and your waist line will thank you.

Add more whole foods to your regular diet by replacing highly processed white flour with whole grains. Instead of white bread, choose whole wheat, oat and bran breads. Opt for fresh or frozen whole fruits and vegetables instead of canned. The canning process includes cooking and adding preservatives. Many canned fruits and vegetables have added sugar or sodium. The canning process also removes beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients that your body needs for good health. Buy fresh or frozen as opposed to canned vegetables and fruits, so that you can enjoy all the benefits of eating vegetables.

Pass by the convenience foods, such as frozen macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and frozen meatloaf in the freezer section. These foods are usually high in calories, carbohydrates and are loaded with sodium and preservatives. Fresh, skinless chicken breasts baked or grilled with whole wheat rolls, fresh vegetables or a salad makes an excellent whole food dinner. Forget the instant mashed potatoes that are loaded with preservatives and other chemicals. Choosing long grain and wild rice as a side dish is another way to add whole foods to your diet.

Beans, rice and legumes can replace high-calorie side dishes, such as macaroni and cheese and instant mashed potatoes. As for potatoes, they are an excellent whole food. If you don’t have time to peel, cook and whip your own potatoes, a baked (sweet) potato is just as delicious and takes less preparation time. Top your baked potato with low-fat sour cream and some fresh chopped green onions for delicious side dish. Many supermarkets offer fresh fish and other seafood. Select local fish or fish that is flown in daily. Fresh fish can be a little more expensive than the fish in the freezer, but one taste of fresh grilled perch or shrimp will convince you it’s worth the price. A salad with a mixture of lettuces, spinach, radishes, carrots, bell peppers and tomatoes is the perfect way to start any whole foods meal.

Many of the preservatives we consume come from snack foods and sodas. Rather than potato chips and snack crackers, satisfy your snack urge with fresh sliced apples, bananas, grapes and berries. You can also enjoy raisins, nuts and other dried fruits. Keep some banana and apple chips in your desk for a quick, naturally sweet snack. Blend up a berry smoothie with fresh berries, ice and 100 percent fruit juice for a refreshing whole foods treat. Keep a bowl of fresh apples, oranges, and bananas on the counter for a healthy, quick after work or after school snack. Tea, especially green tea, is a refreshing alternative to sugary soda. Toss the cold breakfast cereals and fill your pantry with whole grain cereals instead. Whole oats, wheat germ and quinoa are healthy, whole food breakfast choices. Add fresh fruit for extra flavor and nutrients. Avoid using processed sugar. Sweeten your morning oats with honey or natural maple syrup.

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Getting and Staying Motivated to Lose Weight

Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The first step to losing weight is to make the decision to do so, and then take it to the next level by changing your lifestyle in such a way as to promote weight loss and keep it off. It may seem as if you put on weight easily, but find it nearly impossible to take it off. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight takes time and hard work. There is no easy, quick fix out there to help you magically lose weight and make the fat disappear. You have to take charge of your own health and well-being by changing your lifestyle, which primarily entails eating healthier foods, getting more exercise and staying motivated about all the positive changes you’re making for yourself. Don’t lose sight of your goals if you find yourself at a weight-loss plateau and not moving forward as expected. Keep your focus, be consistent and take it one step at a time. Soon you will be where you want to be and achieve permanent, lasting weight loss.

Look through old family photo albums. Remember how thin you were? It may not be possible to get back down to that size 4 you wore in high school, but you can lose weight. Do you have a high school or college reunion coming up? Looking at those old photos may be just the motivation you need to convince you to get off the sofa and hit the gym.

Do some virtual shopping and select your dream outfit, but in a size that you want to be. Bookmark the page or print out the page and hang it on your closet door to remind you to stay motivated to lose weight. Set small goals, such as losing 1 pound each week or exercising 3 days a week. Reward yourself when you achieve each small goal. Keep in mind the ultimate reward, that new outfit! When you do lose weight and can fit into that outfit, buy it! Treat yourself when you reach each milestone in your weight-loss journey. Small rewards for successful steps toward your ultimate goal can help keep you motivated.

We all know how to make a list of things we don’t like about ourselves or a list of things we haven’t yet achieved. Motivate yourself to keep exercising, eating right and losing weight by making a list of positive aspects of your life. You have friends and family who support you. You walked 15 minutes today. You rode your bike for 3 miles. You refused pizza and ate a healthy dinner instead. You lost 1 pound last week. Positive affirmations can help keep you motivated to do the hard work necessary to lose weight.

Many people are motivated by visual stimuli, which is why television commercials are successful, especially those for food. Take a self-portrait or have a family member take a photo of you, and then stop using your full length mirror for 90 days. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror if seeing yourself causes you to have negative thoughts or reinforces a negative self-image. Continue to exercise and track your weight-loss. After three months, take another self-portrait or have a family member take a photo. Place the photos side-by-side and look at the difference. If you have stuck with your program of exercise and diet, you should see a striking difference between the two photos. Seeing how much weight you’ve lost is sure to motivate you to keep going.

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Can You Be Hypnotized to Lose Weight?

No matter how hard some people try, they just can’t seem to lose weight. People who have difficulty shedding extra pounds may be more susceptible to fads and gimmicks to help them lose weight. Alternative health and weight-loss methods, such as acupuncture and hypnotism, are gaining in popularity, but can these methods actually result in weight loss? Hypnosis has been used successfully to help people stop smoking and nail biting. There is science behind hypnosis and the results that can be achieved.

Hypnosis involves putting you in a mindset so that you can be influenced. The practitioner will place you in a state of suggestibility and then suggest positive ideas in your mind. While under the influence of hypnosis, you may experience greater focus and concentration. Your mind is honed in on one idea. The hypnotherapist will make suggestions to you to help improve the odds you will achieve your weight-loss goal.

The hypnotherapist uses the power of suggestion to convince you that you will lose weight. The mind is powerful. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Positive affirmations and belief in yourself combined with a healthy diet and exercise can help you to lose weight. Self-confidence is one aspect of success in any area. Just as those who are most successful in matters of business and money, people who start with a positive attitude and a belief in themselves are more likely to achieve their goal of losing weight.

Hypnosis can help you to visualize yourself thinner and healthier. The hypnotherapist can help you to visualize yourself wearing that dress or suit you haven’t worn in years because you gained weight. Seeing yourself thinner and healthier can help to establish a goal that you can achieve. When you do achieve that goal and zip up that dress or button that sport coat, your self-esteem will soar. Be careful not to set yourself up for failure. It is not possible to safely lose 50 pounds in 30 days. Rapid weight loss can be dangerous, too. A healthy diet and exercise are the most effective and safest ways to lose weight.

Approach hypnosis like you would any other weight loss or medical option. Speak to your doctor and do some research. Talk to friends and family and others who may have experience using hypnosis. Ask a potential hypnotherapist for references. It’s perfectly okay to check out a hypnotherapist before you give him or her money. Make sure you find a certified hypnotherapist who understands your limitations and goals. Hypnosis won’t make you lose weight, but it may help to improve your attitude and self-confidence so that you can achieve your weight loss goal.

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The Cumulative Effects of Exercise

Our activities tend to have a cumulative effect. Everything we do, from the food we eat, to the way we exercise, affects our health and has an effect on the people around us. It adds up. Eating all those extra calories will result in added pounds and fat. Walking a few extra minutes every day adds up to greater weight-loss, firmer muscles and a healthier body.

Photo credit: “Mike” Michael L. Baird [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Exercise helps improve the health of your whole body, including firmer muscles and stronger joints. You can lose weight and maintain your current weight by exercising regularly. Exercise not only benefits your body, but also has a positive effect on every one in your life. You will have more energy and stamina to handle the day-to-day chores, such as taking care of children, working, mowing your lawn or cleaning out your garage. Exercise helps boost your energy and creates a sense of well-being as your brain produces endorphins. You will probably sleep better at night, too.

Greater energy and stamina, as well as a healthy, firm body, can lead to greater self-confidence. This new-found self-confidence will shine through in everything you do at work and at home. Regular exercise combined with a healthy diet can help improve your metabolism, which will increase your energy levels. You may find that you can think more clearly as your physical health improves. Exercising with friends and family can also help strengthen your relationships. Stronger relationships can lead to a happier life.

Have you noticed that when you yawn, people around you start to yawn? It is contagious. The same is true of your mood. When you are happy, people around you tend to catch the happy mood. As your physical health and mood improves, you will notice that your mood is also improving. Your family and co-workers will notice your happier state too. Small annoyances that used to ruin your day may have no effect on you now that you are exercising regularly. You may even notice that you don’t mind the delay in traffic or the slow checkout clerk at the grocery store. The longer your exercise on a regular basis, the greater the happy effect will become.

The more you exercise the greater your health, strength and stamina. Regular exercise improves not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. Improved relationships with everyone in your life, in turn, improves your mood and outlook even more. It all adds up to a happier, healthier you.

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How Yoga Helps Burn Fat

Yoga is not as easy or simple and static as many think. It is actually physically demanding and after spending 30 to 60 minutes striking and locking different yoga poses, you will realize this. Not only that, but there are different forms of yoga that exist too – some are more intense than others.

What is more important in regards to achieving weight loss with yoga exercises is what particular positions you are performing.

Here are a few examples of some great fat burning yoga poses:

The Cobra

This is one of the easiest and most effective yoga poses that exist. It not only aids with weight loss, but it helps to tighten the abdominal and buttocks muscles as well. Tightening of the mid-section also contributes towards that thinner look that you may be shooting for.

Lie down with your face to the ground. Put your hands onto your shoulders with your palms facing down and spread your fingers apart from each other. Then, begin pressing through your hands, bringing your head up, and then let your chest and upper back follow. This lift will take your body off the mat. While performing this movement, you should be looking ahead and your shoulder blades should be kept low and back. You will then want to push the shoulders back and let the stretch transmit evenly all throughout your spine.

You just have to take a few deep breathes when performing this pose and then you can return to the beginning position, where you lie face down on the ground.

The Bow

This one is a bit harder to pull off, but it can seriously help with weight loss and it helps to tone the abs, arms, and legs.

Lie on your belly and create a bend in your knees while reaching past them and grabbing your feet. Breathe your stomach in and stretch the feet upward, while simultaneously lifting the upper part of your body. Make sure that while doing this your shoulder blades are kept low and back.

Lock this pose in and take some deep breathes before going back to your relaxed starting position.

Other Poses

These are just two of the many effective yoga poses that exist. Take a look at this list of yoga exercises to find out about more poses that will help you with losing weight and shrinking down your mid-section, as well as strengthening your body and mind.

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Healthy Summer Smoothies That Taste Great

Photo credit: Dicemanic (Flickr: Milkshake) CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

You already know the delicious, frosty, sweetness of a fruit smoothie, but you pass it up because you don’t want to undo all the hard work you’ve done to lose weight and keep your calories under control. Healthy smoothies don’t always taste good. Wouldn’t it be great to have the best of both worlds? You can have a delicious smoothie that is also good for you if you mix the right ingredients. You can’t go wrong with fresh fruit, raw vegetables, and berries blended to a smooth, cold, refreshing drink. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find your favorite healthy smoothie.

Strawberries and bananas always go well together. The sweet tangy flavor of the strawberry is complimented by the delicious smoothness of the banana. You won’t have to add any sugar to enjoy a sweet treat if you combine these two fruits. Fill your blender with one banana, one cup of ice, a cup of 1 percent or low-fat milk, half a dozen sliced strawberries and top it off with a few tablespoons of low-fat plain yogurt. Blend until all the ingredients are mixed to a smooth texture. Pour it in a tall glass and enjoy!

Berry lovers will really enjoy a mixed berry smoothie made from blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Blend with ice, low-fat yogurt, some spinach leaves and 1 percent milk for a low-calorie, high fiber, vitamin packed super drink. Mix different berries and try different combinations of berries until you find just the right combination to stimulate your taste buds and satisfy your berry craving.

If you are concerned about getting enough protein from your smoothie, you may consider adding a spoonful of peanut butter, almond butter, or your favorite protein or whole food powder to your smoothie mixture. Use all natural or organic peanut or almond butter, if you can find it. Of course, if you have nut allergies, you should not use any product that contains peanuts. Opt instead for fruits and vegetables that are higher in protein, such as watercress or apricots, currants or prunes. These fruits and vegetables add additional fiber to your diet as well as protein.

A healthy smoothie made with fresh fruits and low-fat yogurt is delicious as is, or you can add a few of your favorite veggies to punch up the vitamins and minerals. Add the juice of some raw carrots and celery for extra fiber and vitamins without adding too many calories. Carrots, spinach leaves, and celery will enhance the flavor of the fruits without overpowering them.

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How Volunteering Can Help You Lose Weight and Get Healthier

Photo credit: Win Henderson (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and others is to volunteer. Volunteering not only helps others, but also gives you a sense of community and accomplishment. If you are having difficulty finding ways to stay busy or get more exercise, volunteering is one way to increase your activity level. Volunteering also helps boost your self-esteem, which can have a positive effect on your weight-loss efforts.

Working in a food pantry is an ideal way to squeeze in some strength training while helping the less fortunate. You will get plenty of exercise walking from place to place collecting donations. Someone has to unload the trucks, stock the shelves and help carry heavy bags of food. You can get a good workout lifting cans of food from boxes to shelves, and then from shelves to bags for those who utilize the pantry. You will feel good about yourself after working in the food pantry, because you helped provide a much-needed community service, as well as working up a sweat.

Join a walk-a-thon to help raise money for your favorite charity. Every year, organizations dedicated to finding a cure for cancer, diabetes, or to raise money for homeless or veterans, use the walk-a-thon to help raise money. These walks often require you to find sponsors who will donate a sum for every mile you walk. Many walk-a-thons can be up to 5 miles long, so do the best you can and don’t push yourself beyond your limit. Try to get ready for the big day by walking every day until you can go the distance.

Volunteer to a kids’ sports program. Many communities provide summer sports programs for children. These programs almost always need volunteers. Parents often volunteer to carry balls and other sports equipment, participate as coaches and umpires, or stand in the concession stands and sell refreshments. As long as you aren’t sneaking the popcorn and soda, working concession will keep you busy and physically active for a couple of hours. You will be surprised at the number of calories you can burn just by passing out popcorn, peanuts and drinks in the stands.

Volunteer to collect names for a petition for your favorite charity or cause. Collecting signatures requires you to walk from door to door or from business to business to get those signatures. You can cover a lot of ground by walking for an hour every day after work or on a Saturday. You can also get a good workout by volunteering to set up and tear down displays at job fairs and fundraising booths at local events. Volunteering not only benefits your body, it can benefit your heart and mind too.

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