May has arrived! The rain has been pouring down in buckets here, but I (we all?) hope to see some turnaround in the near future. The birds are loud and proud, the grass it nearly its greenest all year, and soon flowers will be in full bloom. Along with these changes in nature, schools let out soon, schedules change, and mindsets shift to beach/ pool/ outdoor activities.
Now that I've gotten my yoga training, I've been approached concerning how to achieve what some people call a "beach body." Though I am no expert on the subject, plus I really don't love the beach (70 SPF sunscreen!), I have a few ideas to get this goal in action.
I'm thinking a Month of May Challenge is in order. You can take it or leave it [or, like my Gram says, "like it or lump it"]. It consists of a few key elements and making time each day for your goal. I am not guaranteeing anything in terms of how you may look at the conclusion of May, but I do strongly believe you will feel better than you had previously. (And who doesn't want all kinds of that?!) If you already do all of the aspects of the challenge, simply beef them up a little to meet your needs.
If you aren't currently involved in a workout or wellness regimen, I recommend you speak with your doctor before diving into one. Once you feel comfortable, you can start slow, but the challenging aspect is to start. You don't have to tell anyone what you're doing, although for some people it is more encouraging and motivational to have the accountability. If you have a friend or family member to do it with you, that can be even better than just telling someone. The key is to decide on a reasonable, realistic, and achievable goal and work to attain it. Sounds simple, but it can certainly be challenging.
Below are a few starting points for you to consider. This is by no means a whole list of what you could do for yourself, but if you make these positive changes, imagine how great you'll feel by June! The point of the challenge is to encourage you to feel good in your body.
May Wellness Challenge:
- Drink water. For some of us this in and of itself is a challenge. Shifting to warmer temperatures has resulted in a shift in the water your body needs. Have you gotten cramps in the last few weeks? Some of my yoga students have had foot cramps in class and one contributor is insufficient water intake. If you go week by week, just aim to get more this week than last until you are up to your desired amount in the final week of the month.
If you don't enjoy the taste of "plain" water try seltzer water (one of my professors swears he drinks more water now than ever before since getting one of those Soda Stream machines--he just pumps the water with carbonation and omits the sweetener), unsweetened iced tea, or water with any of the following add-ins: sliced fruit (strawberries, lemon, lime, orange, blueberries, apples), sliced vegetables (cucumbers), or herbs (mint, rosemary). Check out these posts from A Farm Girl's Dabbles and Cha Ching Queen for some delicious combinations (and pretty pictures!).
- Fruit & Veggie Up. The hardest part of achieving almost any goal is beginning. If you look at the month as an end goal, you can build up to where you want to go. Although we all know we are what we eat, please do not go buy all vegetables and fruits tonight and let them rot in your fridge. Instead, by simply making these a priority each day--even a thought, if they haven't been previously--you will make progress.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, on average, Americans get only THREE servings of fruits and vegetables a day. And that is combined fruits and vegetables! The most recent daily recommended intake is between FIVE and THIRTEEN servings. If you're at the "are French fries vegetables?" stage, aim for five. Getting the fiber and nutrients from fruits and vegetables can help your body tremendously. That same Harvard post tells us that a variety of diseases can be minimized or avoided altogether with increasing fruit an vegetable servings; "Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can help you ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure, prevent some types of cancer, avoid a painful intestinal ailment called diverticulitis, and guard against cataract and macular degeneration, two common causes of vision loss" (Harvard). Also, check out the ChooseMyPlate website for more info and tools.
This all may seem fine in theory, but how am I to do this in real life (?!), you may be wondering.
- The most common recommendation is to add lettuce or spinach and tomato to sandwiches.
- Beginning the day with a fruit or a fruit and veggie smoothie is another great place to start. (Remember, you can always secretly add vegetables into fruit a little at a time to trick yourself or lovingly trick your family--like I did initially with Danny!).
- Although juicing doesn't provide the fiber benefit, it does contain most of the nutrients present within the vegetables and fruits juiced.
- And snacks like apples or celery and peanut butter, berries in plain yogurt, carrot sticks, pears, or oranges aren't just for kids.
- Adding berries or raisins to cereal or chopped spinach to rice or pasta dishes adds up, too.
- Give a new vegetable a go for dinner. Try Mallorcian Sea Salt & Maple Syrup Carrots, Oven- Roasted Red Cabbage, Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup, Carrot, Apple, & Celery Salad or any of the other recipes under "Mindful Eating."
- Keep your shopping cart in mind. What you buy and bring home is what you end up eating, so shop smart(ly)!
- Have Breakfast. Whether you eat or drink (see recipe above) breakfast, it is (SO!) important. You will feel better all day if you start the day off right. If you're doubting the validity of the notion that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day," read this article on Diabetes Forecast to see just how important it is to your overall health. Obviously, I'm partial to the breakfast smoothie (especially with all of the awesome superfood add-ins), but any of the following are great alternatives: whole grain cereal (low in sugar, high in fiber), oatmeal (with fruit and/or flaxseed on top), fruit salad, a tortilla wrap of spinach and guac, or pb toast and a banana will help you to feel better than going hungry.
If you feel like you can't eat right after you get up, consider planning your morning routine to eat breakfast towards the end. The important thing is that you start to take what you consume seriously on a daily basis. Your body will thank you for it!
- Get Active. We discussed this in Get Up, Get Moving, & Get Mindful, but daily activity is essential to feeling good and prolonging your life. If you think you don't have time now, you should consider whether not making time actually shortens your lifespan. I don't mean to be a dramatic downer, but with all of the incredible benefits from just a relatively few minutes a day, you should make activity a priority.
Aim for TWENTY minutes a day. Walk, ride a bike, jog, do yoga, play disc golf, dance in your living room, or even walk up and down your stairs--start somewhere! If you get into the habit, after the May Challenge is over, you won't want to quit.
- Go Tobacco Free. If you don't smoke or use chewing tobacco, obviously you can ignore this point, but if you use tobacco, you can use this month's challenge to rid yourself of the expensive (and terribly unhealthy) habit. Both of my parents smoked when I was young, so I developed an intolerance for it quite young and as a result, never started (*Shout-out to my mom for successfully quitting years ago!*). But, I know plenty of smart, articulate, wonderful people who smoke or have in the past. It does not make you a bad person, but if you want to be serious about improving your health (as well as being a good example for your family--particularly your children), you should make moves to kick the habit.
When Danny quit tobacco, he had a few days of torture, but soon he was delighted at how great he felt and how much money he saved by giving it up. I am not attempting to minimize the actual physical addiction involved, simply suggesting that if you've considered quitting, it might as well be sooner rather than later.
- Make Mindfulness. With all of these other smaller goals, mindfulness may be at the bottom of your list. Work, however, to be present throughout each day and experience your progress. I am not a celebrity follower, but one of my favorite people (obviously, I don't know her personally) is Jillian Michaels. She has said, "Transformation is not a future event. It is a present activity." Be present throughout and be proud of your progress.
My hope is to continue posts in this vein in the coming weeks. If you have any suggestions, comments, or requests, please post them below or on Facebook or email me at MakingMindfulness@gmail.com.
Labels: Body & Mind, Go Ahead--Try It!, May Wellness Challenge