Just How Important Is Homone Balance?!

Women know all too well what chaos our cycles bring into our lives every single month.  And –  even though pregnancy brings our little bundles of joy, it also brings a bundle of CRAZY with all of the hormone level changes.  Since hormones run our bodies, they also run our lives.  We are all aware that hormones change and surge, but just how important is hormone balance?  When they get out of balance, it rains down a ridiculous amount of maladies on us.  This can also affect men!

Each stage of life brings different challenges as well as physical changes.  Anyone over the age of 18 has experienced or at least heard of PMS, pregnancy hormone changes, post partum changes, and menopause changes.  Don’t forget perimenopause and post-menopause.  Hormones are always present and working in our bodies!  The balance is what is most important.  Personally, I am post menopause for a couple of years now.  These hormone levels change and get out of balance, which affects us in SO many ways – some of which may be very surprising!  

This has directly affected me, so I felt led to dig in and research this.  According to many sources such as Myclevelandclinic.org, Healthline.com, Mindbodygreen.com, hormonal imbalances can drastically affect our general health.   Typical symptoms of hormone imbalance are hot flashes, night sweats, brain fog, low libido, fatigue, and mood swings.  A surprising sign of a hormonal imbalance is also inflammation, including joint pain, swelling and stiffness.  Digestional issues that indicate poor “gut health” may also be caused by a hormonal imbalance.  

In addition to these general health disruptions, a hormone imbalance can also directly affect our metabolism.  Signs your metabolism is suffering from hormones being out of balance are:

  • Rapid or slow heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue, lack of energy
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements
  • Numbness and/or tingling in your hands
  • Higher than normal cholesterol levels
  • Uncommon anxiety or depression
  • Being unable to regulate body temperature (unable to tolerate cold or warm temperatures)
  • Dry, coarse hair and/or skin
  • Irregular body fat distribution
  • Darkened skin in armpit area or back and sides of your neck
  • Skin tags and/or skin growths
  • Extreme thirst and frequent urination

First things first ~ what are these hormones, and what purpose do they serve in our bodies?  Here is a brief breakdown, courtesy of research by emetabolic.com.

Estradial / Estrogen:  influences the way joint tissues assist with bone production and rebuilding, promotes muscle growth, and decreases muscle breakdown.  Estrogen protects joints from weakening, protects against osteoarthritis, and reduces the likelihood of joint replacement.  Lower than optimal estrogen levels have been repeatedly linked to osteoarthritis.  

Progesterone:  is widely reported to be anti-inflammatory.  Our bodies convert progesterone into cortisol, known as the “stress” hormone, one of the more powerful anti-inflammatory naturally recurring resources in our bodies.  Studies have shown that progesterone actually reduces neuropathic pain.

Testosterone:  as an anabolic hormone, it aids in the building and strengthening of tissues.  It has also been proven to reduce inflammatory markers.

Cortisol:  reduces inflammation and controls the body’s immune response.  Our adrenal glands release cortisol in stressful situations; this is intended to be short-term to handle a serious, unexpected stressor, (for example, sudden braking or swerving to avoid an auto collision) and should then return to normal levels.  Chronic, long-term stressful situations cause a problem in that the adrenal glands are active too often, which depletes cortisol levels.  This depleted cortisol level leads to inflammatory processes being out of control which leads to pain, swelling, and tissue damage.

So, how do we know for sure a hormone imbalance is the culprit of a myriad of problems?  What do we do about it?  

The very first step is to make an appointment with your doctor.  Have your blood drawn, and a full hormone panel run to find out what your numbers are and where your levels are.  Discuss all of your concerns and symptoms with your doctor, and any options available to you.  I cannot stress enough just how crucial this first step is!

The next step – you’ve likely already guessed!  Exercise and nutrition!  Chemically enhanced and processed foods are YOUR ENEMY!  Just don’t eat them.  Seriously.  There are so many delicious clean, healthy, whole foods that taste delicious and will make you feel better!  I’ll break down some specifics with nutrition in next week’s blog.  For now, please work on eliminating (or at least decreasing) foods with dairy, gluten, and excessive sugars in them.  Shop around the outside of the grocery store.  If you look at the ingredient list on a bag, box or can, and you don’t recognize most of the things listed – put it back on the shelf.  

Make sure you’re taking a good multi-vitamin daily.  It would be a great idea to add a probiotic, and ground flaxseed or flax oil into your daily routine as well.  

Exercise!  My friends – just get up and move.  Find what you enjoy and do more of that.  Do you love music?  Try dance fitness classes!  Do you love being outdoors?  Go on more hikes and walks!  Get a group of friends to work out with you.  Group walks, boot camps, workouts – any of these things will beat sitting on the couch eating unhealthy things!   Find an accountability partner or group.  If you are local to me (McDonough, Georgia), you are more than welcome to join FTM Wellness Boot Camp and Yoga classes!  (Just click on the tabs in the menu for more information.)

If any of these things hit home with you, go ahead and make that doctor’s appointment.  Choose today to eat cleaner and move more.  If it’s all a little overwhelming, and you would like help navigating  these things, I would love to help you!  

#MomLife

Some days that #momlife hits harder than others, doesn’t it?  Just this weekend, I took my youngest son for his senior pictures.  My BABY boy. . . So many “lasts” this month!  The last open house, last back-to-school shopping trip, his last first day of school. . .  Many of you are likely experiencing something similar, whether it’s the first year of preschool, first year of Kindergarten, last year of elementary, last year of middle school – so many emotions!!  And so, so much to do.  Getting back into a daily school-day routine has its ups and downs.  Choose to look at the positives, and keep going!  Set a new schedule for yourself; one that includes self care.  It IS crucial, and here’s why!

  1. Sweet Mama, you are always teaching your littles.  Whether they are tiny littles or older, they’re watching everything you do and hearing everything you say.  Yes, I know teenagers seem to be blatantly oppositional and uninterested, but they ARE watching and listening.  They learn as much, if not more, from what you do over what you say.  Establishing healthy habits and guidelines, then sticking with them, is putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak.  Set your legacy for your children, and make it a healthy one!
  1. Taking care of yourself is absolutely NOT selfish!  Your family is depending on you.  Be proactive with your health to ensure that you will be capable of being active and present for your children and your spouse.  There will always be doctors appointments, school programs, daily homework, music and/or sports practices, concerts, games, birthday parties, etc.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle includes nutrition, exercise, and proactive medical care.  Believe me, establishing a clean diet and exercise program will also help you tremendously in handling stress, and minimizing chronic health issues!  Your emotional and mental health are just as important as your internal, physical health!
  1. Your longevity is at stake!  Even if your children are really young right now, I promise they will be grown in the blink of an eye.  God willing, we all get older.  Wouldn’t you want to be just as active and present for your grandchildren as you are right now for your children?  Maintaining your physical health has the added benefits of maintaining (if not improving) your balance, flexibility, mobility, and strength.  None of us want to go into our golden years in a diminished capacity.  And the simple fact is – it’s up to us to maintain what we have!
  1. As mamas we are always taking care of others.  Of course, we would rather be the one giving care than to be the one needing care.  There is absolutely NO reason that getting older should slow us down.  Being proactive with your health, and active in improving or maintaining your fitness level will ensure that you can level up instead of ramping down.  Get out there and live your best life!    

The choice is yours, sweet mama.  My hope is that you choose to live WELL!  You are more than capable AND deserving.  If you need help getting started or in implementing a plan, I’m here for you!

Managing Stress Like A Boss Babe

Oh my goodness, ya’ll – this summer break has flown by!  We’re heading back to school next week here, ready or not.   How are ya’ll feeling?  Your little people have been home for the summer, and you’ve been so busy trying to keep them fed AND entertained. . . that is a full-time job!  Mix in playing referee, short-order cook, vacation planner, and back-to-school preparation CEO, and summer isn’t so easy breezy anymore.  Making sure everyone is happy, healthy, and ready for what comes next is definitely stressful.

So – have you been able to really enjoy this summer?  Have you invested in any self care?  Going back to school will bring its own kind of stress, but it will also bring routines back into most of our lives.  I’m a firm believer that we all function better on a schedule – littles AND grownups.  Please make sure you utilize that to your advantage in scheduling some self care things!  

You can go ahead and prepare for this!  I’m sure you already know when your child’s school day begins and ends, and whether you will be taking and picking them up from school or a bus stop.  Even if they will be involved in fall sports (before you know practice and games schedules), you can add yourself into the daily routine.

  1. Workouts:  Really look at your daily schedule.  I promise you will be able to carve out at least 30 minutes three or four days each week to get in a workout.  If there’s no time or room in your budget for a gym membership, work out at home.  You can get incredible results, I promise!  The location doesn’t matter – your consistency does.  Even if you wake up 30 minutes earlier each day, consistently, you will successfully achieve your goals.
  1. Nutrition:  Will you be making lunches for your children to take to school?  Why not go ahead and make yours?!  Pick one day that is the least busy for you, or even a couple of days with a couple of “down time” hours.  Plan a menu for the week, make a grocery list, then get your grocery shopping done.  Remember, any time you spend waiting in a car rider pick-up line or sitting at a sports team practice is perfect for building an online grocery order.  You can then just swing by the store and pick your groceries up from the parking lot!  You’ll need one afternoon or evening to prepare meals ahead.  Find a good cookbook or use Pinterest for inspiration and planning.  Once your meals are done, portion them out into individual grab-and-go containers to store in your refrigerator.
  1. Show Yourself Some Love:  Find what relaxes you and what helps you unwind.  Plug in time for some yoga.  Plan a massage.  Read a book.  Have a relaxing soak in your tub.  Plan regular date nights with your spouse.  Plan a game night and/or movie night with your entire family.  Schedule those pesky medical appointments (dental cleanings, mammograms, physicals).  While these things in particular induce stress, you’ll feel so much better when they’re checked off of your to-do list!  And, if there’s something that has seemed off (fatigue, headaches, etc.) but you’ve just not taken time to deal with it – you’ll likely get answers and a plan.  Investing in yourself will make you feel better.
  1. Sleep:  Far too many people underestimate how important adequate rest is.  Your overall health is directly impacted by the amount of quality sleep you get each night.  Healthy, sustained weight loss and/or maintenance is much more successful with adequate rest; conversely, any weight loss and/or muscle building plan is sabotaged by inadequate sleep.   Getting enough rest is crucial for balancing hormones, strengthening your immune system, recovery from illness and injury, and managing stress. Make sure you plug in a bedtime routine for yourself, just like you do or did for your kids.  

Being a great wife and mom has to include taking care of yourself!  If you’re not feeling well or stressed out, you cannot give your best to your family.  Your loved ones are depending on you, so think of anything you do for your own health and emotional or mental well-being as an investment for them.  And, honestly, you’ll enjoy your time with them so much more if you’re happy and healthy!  You cannot pour from an empty cup!

Let’s Get Real

Isn’t it crazy how fast this summer break has gone by?  This entire year, for that matter?!  Have you reached our goals yet?  If you haven’t, why not?  Did you set any goals for yourself?  If you didn’t, why not?  Are you better / healthier than you were in January?  If you aren’t, wouldn’t that be a fantastic goal?

Here’s the thing  – in order to make sustainable changes, a 14-day or 30-day diet simply will not be effective.   Any kind of life-altering change requires overall lifestyle changes.  Bad habits need to be broken, and new, healthy habits need to be formed.   This is the reality, so how bad do you really want that healthier life?  Are you already feeling defeated because you think you just cannot make these changes?  Are you worried about what you’ll be giving up more than what you’ll be gaining?  If so, I can promise your focus is in the wrong place.  We are Divinely designed, friends!  Our Heavenly Father created every cell in our bodies and gave us all we need to live healthy, purpose-filled lives.  The Bible tells us that with God, all things are possible.  So – let’s look at this one more time in a different light. . . you might doubt your own ability and your own strength, but don’t ever doubt Him!  

So, let’s start over.  You CAN begin this new school year and upcoming fall season with brand new goals, and make spectacular progress by Christmas.  You’ll need a pen and your journal, or some paper.  (If you haven’t started a journal, this is the perfect time!)  Yes – right now.  Stop reading; get the pen and paper.

  • Goals:  First, write down any and all goals you want to meet.  These can be big goals and/or smaller, more short-term goals.  These can be physical, health, aesthetic, spiritual, – all of the above!  Add time frames for these goals.
  • Obstacles: Secondly, write down any and all obstacles – anything that you believe has prevented you from achieving your goals in the past, and anything you believe that may be a problem for you in the near future.  
  • Now for the hardest part – review your goals, then review the obstacles.  Honestly evaluate each goal, and each obstacle.  Are the goals you listed realistic?  Are the obstacles you listed true obstacles or excuses?  Obstacles can be met with solutions, and excuses need to be thrown away.  
  • Be honest with yourself, and realistic in your expectations.  If your health is in a decline, and you’ve gained a considerable amount of weight over the past year or two, it’s unfair to expect major changes to occur quickly.  Healthy, sustainable weight loss takes time.  

Now it’s time to put it all together!  Tweak your goals if you found that they might have been unrealistic or overly optimistic.  Set yourself up for success!  For example, if you want to drop 50 to 75 pounds, make that your long-term goal, 9 (9) to 12 months.  Then set smaller goals – 12 pounds in 30 days, or drinking 1 gallon of water a day for 30 days.  Achieving smaller goals on your journey to that long-term goal is incredibly motivating, and decreases the amount you have to lose for that overall goal.  Write these down in a journal, and in your calendar.  

Next up – obstacles!  Hopefully you’ve already crossed off the things that are actually excuses.  Obstacles can be overcome or at least worked around.  If time is an issue, especially time where childcare is concerned – maybe working out at home before everyone wakes up is your solution.  You will see great benefits and results from just 30 minutes three (3) or (4) days a week.  Is proper nutrition and meal planning an obstacle?  Use Instacart or order your groceries online to pick up on your way home.  Utilize a slow cooker to prepare meals, at least your protein sources, that won’t require you to stand over the stove.  Purchase produce that’s already chopped and ready to cook.  These little steps can help you make the best use of your time and still prepare healthy meals for yourself and your family.  

Please keep in mind that non-scale victories are MORE important than the number on the scale.  How your clothes fit, increased energy levels, increased strength and stamina, improved mobility, etc., are successes!  

Now you have your homework – get started before your kids go back to school so you’ll have a plan in place.  You’ll be way ahead of the game and ready to tackle the busy season of Fall while crushing your goals!!  

Don’t Wait! Act Now!

Life can certainly throw some surprises at us!  We’ve all been caught off guard by health issues, family crises, home and vehicle repair needs, etc.  Such a WIDE range of things!  Most of us have our heating and air systems serviced to keep things running as smoothly as possible, and we keep our vehicles serviced (oil changes, tune ups) to keep them running as smoothly as possible to prolong the life of our cars.  In keeping with this proactive thinking, why not be proactive with your health and overall wellness?!   A lot of you may already have healthy habits in place.  If you don’t, what are you waiting for?!  The Covid pandemic took the world by surprise, and certainly put our health and wellness front and center.  If your health and wellness is already a priority, you have a little less to worry about.

Making your health a priority is NOT being selfish; in fact, it’s an investment in your loved ones.  Why wait until some illness or injury occurs to re-act?  Much like keeping your cars maintained, being proactive with your personal health is a very wise choice!  There will always be things out of our control; however, there are things we can do to prolong a healthy lifestyle!  These are:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
    • Avoid fad, trendy diets, and embrace a healthy lifestyle!
    • Cut out processed sugars, enriched breads, and sodas
  • Decrease the amount of dairy you consume
  • Increase movement!  Dance, walk, run, lift weights, stretch, etc.  
  • Instilling “anti-aging” habits
    • Include a quality multivitamin in your daily routine
  • Add a quality probiotic, and Omega 3’s into your daily routine
  • Make getting enough rest a priority
  • Avoid tobacco or vaping products
  • Limit the amount of alcoholic beverages you consume
  • Use sunscreen, and apply a quality quality lotion after each shower
  • Improving and strengthening your immune system
    • Remember the quality multivitamin?  Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamins B, C, and D!
  • Quality sleep is important here, as well. 
  • Avoid sugar!  There are various forms of sugar hidden in most of our foods (including spaghetti sauce and alcoholic beverages).  If you cannot cut sugar from your diet, at least limit it.  Sugar literally suppresses your immune system.
  • Include at least three (3) servings of green vegetables into your diet daily!  
  • Improving and strengthening your mobility
    • Include some form of resistance training at least three times each week
  • Include quality stretching.  I highly recommend weekly yoga classes!
  • Be aware of and intentional about your posture!  Keep your back straight, and your shoulders back and down; whenever you feel yourself slouching, roll the shoulders back and down!
  • Move often throughout the day, even if you have a mostly sedentary job.  Standing up, walking around your office, doing arm circles, bodyweight squats, etc. will be helpful!
  • Maintaining a healthy hydration level
    • Make a new habit of drinking at least 72 ounces of water each day
  • Any time you feel hungry, drink an 8-ounce serving of water
  • If breaking a soda habit sounds impossible, start easy.  Replace one soda or sweet tea drink a day with water.  Add lemon or lime if you’d like.
  • Get a fancy or pretty cup that you love!  Use a straw.  If it encourages you to carry it with you and drink water – it’s almost a necessity!

Putting healthy habits into place will keep all of your systems (central nervous system, respiratory, cardiovascular, etc.) operating at full capacity, and keep YOU operating at full capacity as well.  

Here are just a few examples of how being proactive can serve you SO much better than being reactive.  

  1. Nutrition:  Reactive nutrition looks like grocery shopping and meal prepping on the go; running into the store and snagging things on sale, putting things in the buggy based on cravings, emotions, and “on a whim.”  Proactive nutrition looks like menus have been planned out, a proper grocery list was made, and maybe even ordered online to pick up (via InstaCart, etc) outside the store without additional emotional or unplanned purchases.  Cook and eat according to your plan and what’s in your own home!
  1. Exercise:  Reactive workout plans are the ones where workouts rarely happen.  Once you get out of work, you realize you either don’t have your gym bag or forgot tennis shoes, ear pods, workout clothes, etc.  You don’t have a plan, or any accountability, so you go on home planning on another day.  Proactive workout plans are the ones that happen each and every day necessary because the gym bag was packed the night before or stays packed with charging cords, extra shoes, sports bras, socks, ponytail holders, etc.  There most likely is a workout partner, personal trainer, or fitness group that is expecting you to show up AND expecting YOU to hold them accountable as well.
  1. Weight Management:  Reactive weight management most likely resembles a yo yo; weight fluctuates more than 15 pounds every few months, and no real changes have been sustainable.  Reactive weight management basically reacts to weight gained by severely restricting calories (including necessary nutrients) and attempting to adhere to a fad or trendy diet only to return to old habits and gain weight back, plus some.  Proactive weight management combines clean, healthy, whole foods daily, and consistently maintains this for life.  Proactive weight management includes a consistent exercise program in addition to taking enough calories from meals made up of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, green vegetables, and healthy fats.
  1. Immune System:  Reactive immune systems are typically weak, and, well, reactive:  prone to catching any and every bug, and commonly more prone to chronic health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis issues, etc.  Reactive immune systems are also prone to be on various medications, both over the counter and prescriptions (which cause various side effects and other health issues).  Proactive immune systems are typically stronger and resistant to most common bugs. Even if someone who is proactive with her immune system catches a cold or virus, it isn’t as severe and is short-lived.  Someone who is proactive with their immune system typically is free of most prescription medications, and does not suffer from the most common chronic health issues.  Even arthritis symptoms are easily manageable without prescriptions through exercise and clean nutrition. 
  1. Anti Aging:  Reactive aging creeps in – slow weight gain throughout the midsection, stiffness in the joints, difficulty in getting up after sitting for long periods, difficulty getting up from the floor or a low seat, dry skin, low energy levels and frequent fatigue.  Proactive aging is ANTI aging!  It consists of eating a clean, healthy diet, staying sufficiently hydrated, staying active, maintaining a consistent exercise routine, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, less achy joints, more fresh air, and less screen time!

Wouldn’t you prefer to be proactive and invest in your longevity? Being reactive can also drain your energy and time dealing with health and weight management issues that, quite frankly, could be avoided completely with a proactive mindset and proactive habits!  Decide today, for yourself and for your loved ones, to be proactive about the things you can.  Does all of this leave you feeling overwhelmed?  You don’t have to be!!  Pick just one area to start with.  Make a checklist for yourself, in this one area, of the things you can put into place this week.  Start with small steps – the things you can manage this week.  Once you get a few new habits in place, you’ll feel much better and more confident.  Then build from there!

If you really want to make some serious lifestyle changes, but don’t know where to start, a good personal trainer can be the best investment in yourself.  I would love to help you!  There is no reason why you can’t be healthy and live your best life – at any age.  Please feel free to reach out to me if I can help you!  Email me at Fitteachermom@aol.com, or contact me through the link on this web site.

Here’s to healthier habits and a proactive mindset!!!

Eight Reasons Why I Love Yoga ~ And Why I Think You Will, Too

How do I love yoga?  Let me count the ways!  I know that’s such a cheesy opening. . . but it’s honestly SO true!  Yoga has tremendous benefits ~ ones you feel instantly and from the inside out.  Yes – even after your very first class.  

You do not have to be at any certain fitness level to practice yoga.  The beauty of yoga is that it is FOR YOU – where you are right now.  Your practice changes, grows, and improves as your body and fitness level change.  Some true, long-time yoga practitioners are definitely advanced in their physical fitness ability, flexibility, and ability to get into and maintain challenging postures.  But their capabilities were not automatically present at their first class.  It’s called “practice” for a reason!  In any physical fitness activity, there’s always room for growth and skill development.  Yoga is no different.  

  • Your yoga is just that – all yours!  Every time I get on my mat, whether I’m teaching a class or taking one, that time is all mine:  learning more about what my body needs, what I’m capable of, and mostly recovering from daily and/or weekly stresses (emotional, mental, and physical). Today’s yoga session may be completely different than tomorrow’s, depending on which muscle groups are sore or tight and how stressful the week has been. 
  • Yoga is “time friendly.”  Thankfully, there is no minimum or maximum amount of time required!  A good yoga session can last from 10 minutes up to 90 minutes.  The decision is completely up to you.
  • Had a few hard workouts that left your muscles feeling sore and tight?  Yoga sessions can target those areas!  Let your yoga instructor know if your lower back or hip flexors feel tight or if your shoulders and upper back have been bothering you.  A good yoga session can definitely help relieve that tightness and aid in recovery.  Actually, weekly yoga sessions can greatly improve your recovery and help maximize your workouts.
  • Yoga is one of the best ways to relieve stress!  Settling onto a yoga mat, concentrating on your breathing, and stretching tense muscles will calm your heart rate and release a great deal of tension and stress.
  • Recovery yoga before bed will greatly improve the quality of your sleep.  Tense muscles are stretched, stress is relieved, circulation is improved, and your body is relaxed.
  • With each yoga session, balance, flexibility, and mobility improve.  Especially as we age, these help us maintain our independence so we can continue to lead an active, healthy lifestyle.  Each time you perform a difficult pose, your body improves!  Those tight muscles and tissues DO remember and respond.  Even repeating a pose later in the same session will be improved. 
  • In addition to the obvious muscle stretching, yoga also incorporates resistance training as we use our own body weight to hold stretches and in moving in and out of poses.  Not only are you improving your balance and flexibility, but you’re also gaining strength and endurance!
  • No two yoga sessions have to be the same!  Remember, it is for you!  Each instructor has their own style, and each app or video is different.  If you’re plugging yoga in at home, you can play music or nature sounds.  Your room can be brightly lit or have low light.  You can incorporate aromatherapy with candles or oils.  I love that one day my class utilizes low light and the sounds of ocean waves, while another class is more about fellowship and communicating while we stretch.  A yoga practice can be more flowing in and out of poses, or lingering in stretches for longer periods of time.  Each yoga session can meet your needs at that time!

If you haven’t tried yoga before, please do yourself a favor and give it a try.  I promise you won’t be disappointed!  Many gyms offer yoga classes if you don’t have a yoga studio near you.  The Down Dog app is one of my favorite go to’s for my own practice at home when I don’t want to plan my own practice.  If you’re local to me, please check the Yoga tab on this web site for class opportunities!  

As always, please feel free to contact me if I can help you with your healthy and wellness goals!

What’s The Deal With Inflammation?!

Recognizing symptoms of inflammation and managing it is crucial to your overall wellness journey.  There are so many common, chronic symptoms we all experience from fatigue, headaches, and even congestion/runny nose that may actually be a symptom of inflammation rather than allergies or a cold.   Most often we associate inflammation with an injury or arthritis, but it can warn us about other health issues.  If your body has excess inflammation, it’s trying to signal you that something is off in your system.

After researching this more in depth (from WebMD.com, Healthline.com, Medical News Today and Harvard Health), I’ve learned that there are two types of inflammation:  Acute and Chronic.

Acute Inflammation is what actually happens at the onset of an injury, such as a sprained ankle or wrist, that actually helps us heal.  The swelling, and oftentimes heat, are our bodies reaction to an injury; these symptoms are fighting the injury and signal us to rest that area as the swelling goes away.

Chronic Inflammation is serious, and if this isn’t treated, it can start a domino effect in our bodies of other issues.  Here are a few signs of chronic inflammation:

  • You’re tired all of the time. Can you believe that too little or too much sleep can lead to inflammatory reactions in your body?  Irregular sleep patterns can cause cells in your body to respond as if you’re dealing with an illness.
  • You have aches and pains that cannot be attributed to an injury.  If you experience pain at either end of the range of motion, you could be dealing with inflammation or arthritis.  Either should be checked out with your doctor, just to be safe and to keep you on the right track.
  • You’re experiencing digestive problems.  If you’re dealing with ongoing excessive gas or diarrhea, this could be caused by inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract.  Chronic digestive issues should never be ignored!  This could be inflammation from food allergies, Crohn’s Disease, Diverticulitis, etc.  These definitely need to be checked by your doctor.
  • Your lymph nodes are swollen. These are located in your neck, armpits, and groin area.  Swelling in your lymph nodes is a definite signal that something is wrong with your immune system.  A viral or bacterial infection will cause these to swell, but as the infection heals, the swelling decreases.  If your lymph nodes stay swollen, this should be checked with your physician as well to determine if there is something more serious going on.
  • You have a stuffy or runny nose.  The obvious sign for allergies is inflammation in our nasal passages.  At the onset, we believe it’s all due to seasonal allergies or a common cold.  However, since inflammation is the body’s way of fighting a foreign substance and protecting itself, a stuffy nose that persists could be a sign of something else. 
  • You’re experiencing skin irritation or break outs. Internal inflammation can sometimes make itself known by breaking out on our skin.  If you’re experiencing a new rash, dry skin, eczema, etc., it could be a sign of internal inflammation.  If it becomes a chronic issue, having a doctor check is always a good idea.
  • You’re having problems with focus or are noticing “brain fog.”  Inflammation can definitely affect us mentally.  We become a little more forgetful, have trouble focusing, lose track of what you’re saying during a conversation.  If we treat internal inflammation, mental clarity improves.  Our nutrition plays a huge part in this!  Fast foods, processed foods, convenience, and restaurant foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies.  Our brains, and entire body, operate at optimal levels when we are fueled appropriately!

Chronic inflammation, untreated for an extended period of time, can lead to any number of health concerns.  These include:

  • Diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • Arthritis and other joint diseases
  • Allergies
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

So, what can we do?  Can we avoid chronic inflammation?  The answer is YES!  At the very least we can minimize our risk.  Here are a few factors that typically lead to this type of inflammation:

  • Older age
  • Obesity
  • A diet that is rich in UNhealthy fats and added sugars
  • Smoking
  • Low hormone levels
  • Stress
  • Sleep problems

You likely already know that I’m headed straight to the nutrition and exercise fix, right?  Because proper self care is ESSENTIAL for our health and wellness right now, as well as our long-term health, wellness, mobility, and longevity.   Wouldn’t you prefer a better quality of life as you age?!  

So let’s look at nutrition.  First, there are so, so many foods that can not only lead to inflammation, but actually cause it.  These are:

  • Processed, refined carbohydrates (white bread, donuts, etc.)
  • Fried foods (french fries, tater tots, etc.)
  • Sodas and all sugar-sweetened drinks.  This includes Gatorade!!!
  • Red meat that is fatty (always choose the leanest possible) and processed meats (sausage, hot dogs, bacon, etc.)
  • Margarine, shortening, and lard

Now onto the good stuff!  Please DO NOT PANIC!  You will not be giving up flavor or enjoying your foods, I promise.  In fact, you will likely be pleasantly surprised by how good you feel without the “crap” foods listed above in your system.  Here are some examples of ANTI-inflammatory foods:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts like walnuts and almonds
  • Salmon and tuna
  • Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
  • Coffee (Yup!  Without the sugary creamers and sugar)

Not only will these foods help decrease any inflammation in your body, a diet rich in these can also help prevent inflammation!  This can also help control your blood sugar levels, decrease body fat, and increase your energy.  

Movement and getting in an adequate amount of exercise can also tremendously decrease inflammation.  If working out only reduces stress for you, you’re still ahead of the game!  We all know there are more benefits than that.

The bottom line here is to cut back or eliminate the foods that are unhealthy and cause inflammation.  Eat a diet full of the anti-inflammatory foods, and get moving.  You will feel so, so much better!   If, of course, you are dealing with any of the signs above of chronic inflammation, go ahead and see your doctor.  If there is a problem, you can be on your way to resolving it.  If not, you’ll have peace of mind and a direction (healthy nutrition and exercise) to go.

As always, if you want or need help with nutrition and/or a workout plan, please feel free to contact me at Fitteachermom@aol.com, or through the Contact Me tab on this web site!

Time Is On Your Side

This has to be a joke, right?!  None of us ever seem to have enough time!  In fact, the most common reason I hear from clients and friends for not eating right or working out is “I just don’t have the time.”  So, here’s the thing – you/I make the time for things that are important.  The things that are priorities for us or our families are the things that take precedence in our schedules as well.

Even though fitness and healthy eating take time and effort, and seem to be more selfish pursuits, the truth is that your health and wellness ARE essential!  When moms and dads are sick, managing our households becomes much harder.  We can’t prevent all illnesses, but placing an emphasis on your nutrition and fitness level will certainly minimize chronic illnesses and maximize your overall health.  Just imagine fewer doctors appointments!!  That will certainly free time in your already hectic schedules, right?  

I want to review a few basic principles from earlier blogs about the advantages of healthy eating and working out, as well as some disadvantages from unhealthy eating and not getting weekly exercise.

Advantages:

  1.  Healthy eating provides clean nutrition – think of that as fuel for your body.  Taking in the appropriate amounts of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats keeps your body and ALL of it’s systems (cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, etc.) operating at optimal levels.
  1. Taking in clean nutrition boosts your immune system!  Naturally, this helps your body fight off any germs and illnesses you encounter.  
  1. A healthy diet minimizes complications from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even allergies.
  1. Getting in three (3) to four (4) days of exercise every week maintains a healthy weight and can aid in losing excess body fat.
  1. Some form of daily exercise will help manage stress, burn off frustration, and help with our mental health.  
  1. Exercise can aid in clearing “brain fog” and give a different perspective on stressful situations/decisions.
  1. Exercise keeps your joints and soft tissues operating at their best.  Think of the “use it or lose it” theory.  Sitting still for long periods of time freezes your joints and they become stiff.  Movement does just the opposite.
  1. Getting exercise allows us to maintain and improve our balance, flexibility, mobility, and strength

Disadvantages:

  1.  Eating a diet that consists of primarily fast foods and processed foods can lead to any number of digestive issues, and in complicating chronic health conditions.
  1. A diet that consists of either too little or too many calories, protein, carbs, and the wrong kinds of fats can actually cause many health issues, as well as causing the body to store unhealthy body fat around your organs (visceral) as well as under your skin.
  1. An unhealthy diet in addition to already carrying too much body fat is harmful to your organs, joints, and connective tissues.  This can also weaken your bones.
  1. Eating a diet that is full of processed foods and high in sugar actually suppresses your immune system, making you a target for every illness and virus.
  1. Avoiding exercise is harmful to your joints.  Remember that we are Divinely designed!!  Each bone, joint, ligament, tissue, and organ has a purpose, and these all work together.  I know from personal experience that if you neglect one muscle group, another takes over, causing imbalanced and improper work on your joints.  If your core is weak, your lower back will become overworked and begin to give out.  If your hamstrings are weak, your knees will have more “pull” from the front of the leg, causing improper work dynamics which in turn will cause pain and possible injury.

Ok – now you see just why a healthy lifestyle is so crucial to your overall wellness, longevity, and healthy aging.  However, you still have the issue of finding time.  This is where priorities and time management come in!  

We’ll tackle nutrition and meal replacement first.  Journaling might be a helpful option, or at least a notepad and a pen!  First, make note of how many you will feed each day.  Will you need to prepare all meals and snacks for your spouse and children?  Just you?  (I have made MANY meals that have been tweaked to allow for my competition prep, as well as meals my husband and sons will eat.)  The next step will be to prepare a weekly menu for each meal – breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks.  Is this accounting for everyone’s particular likes and dislikes, allergies, etc.?   Now you’re ready to put this into a grocery list; include ALL items needed to cook (seasonings, herbs, extra virgin olive oil) as well as all ingredients.  

Helpful Tips:

  • Look at Pinterest or Google for clean recipes for your favorite dishes
  • Purchase the containers in the produce section that have fresh vegetables already chopped – huge time saver!
  • Order your groceries online to pick up.  This saves you time going inside the store, waiting in a line to pay for your groceries, AND allows you to purchase ONLY the items needed for your menu!

Now just pick a couple of days to prepare a few meals in advance.  Don’t forget about what a time saver a crock pot is!  Pinterest is really helpful here, too.  Once the meals are prepared, divide by servings, and put into individual containers to keep in the refrigerator.  Then you just grab and go.  Even back at home at the end of a busy day, knowing you have dinner all ready to heat up is such a relief.  If you are out and about for sports practices and games – knowing you have a meal already prepared will save you time AND money going through a drive-through for fast food.  Just heat your meals and relax at home while you eat.

Up next – workouts!  I promise this isn’t as daunting as you might think.  Look at your calendar, and take your daily schedule into consideration.   If you have a gym membership – use it!  Pack your gym bag before you go to bed at night; even put it in your car if that helps!  Make sure you have workout clothes, socks, the right shoes, your head phones, etc. already in the bag in the evening.  Just like your meals – you grab and go on your way out in the morning (unless it’s already in your car).  Just carve out 30 to 45 minutes at least 3 days each week to stop by the gym on your way home.  Depending on your work schedule, maybe going to the gym first and then onto work is better for you.  You’ll only need to get up a little earlier; I promise it’s more than worth it!  If you’re like me, you spend nearly that much time piddling on household tasks in the morning anyway.  Make a plan, and stick with it!  Don’t let yourself get sidetracked.  

If you aren’t a gym member, do NOT let that stop you!!!  If you feel that you would be more consistent with the accountability of a gym environment – then research the gyms local to you.  Most will offer a week-long guest pass.  Just try it out.  If joining a gym just isn’t for you, then plug in at-home workouts for yourself.  Either first thing in the morning before you get ready for the day, or immediately after work.  Depending on your dinner menu, you will likely have 20 to 30 minutes while supper is cooking!  

The final step for getting workouts in is making a plan for each week.  Go ahead and schedule your workouts.  Yes – write them down!  If you want to lift weights, plan which days you will work which muscle groups.  Have a plan for each muscle group for when you walk into the gym or pull out any home equipment.  If you prefer a variety – make sure you schedule a day for an outdoor walk, a yoga class, dance fitness, running or walking with friends.   Look for gaps in your schedule; for example, if your child has a sports practice that lasts an hour, use that hour to jog or walk (through in some jumping jacks, plank, squats, walking lunges).  

Make your health and wellness a priority!  Self care is never selfish; your family is depending on you!  It can certainly seem overwhelming, but just take it one step at a time.  Start with nutrition.  Make a plan, and stick with it.  Be consistent, and you will have developed a healthy habit!   Then add in some form of exercise.  Mix it up, invite friends; have fun with it!  

A personal trainer can certainly be a huge benefit in creating a workable plan for you, aiding in time management, proper nutrition, and planning effective workouts.  A consultation isn’t a commitment.  If you’re weighing hiring a trainer, get references and consult with one or more to make the most informed decision.  I would love to help you!   Please click on my Contact Me link or email at: Fitteachermom@aol.com.  Mention this blog for a free consultation!!

Low Back Pain? Check Your Hip Flexors!

All of us have experienced low back pain at some point in our lives, and it is surely aggravating!  Even though you might be able to pinpoint what activity caused it, you could be missing a very important underlying factor!  Tight hip flexors can really throw a proverbial monkey wrench into things.  

Foam rolling and stretching your lower back is always helpful, but don’t neglect those hip flexors!  It’s always a great idea to stretch your hips and hip flexors – just to be proactive.  You already know that I’m going to recommend yoga. . . honestly, you cannot go wrong!  Whether you’re looking for recovery, stress relief, pain relief, improved balance, improved flexibility, improved mobility, improved strength, or ALL of the above, yoga is the answer!   But back to how hip flexors affect your lower back. . .

Quite often lately, I’ve noticed that stretching my hip flexors always makes my lower back feel better and improves my flexibility tremendously.  So I researched the connection between hip flexors and low back pain.  I’ve read over so many articles on web sites such as Livelovefruit.com, Netafit.com, Integrehab.com, ISSAonline.com, and Spineuniverse.com.  The overwhelming results are that tight hip flexors are most likely responsible for a large percentage of lower back pain!

First let’s pinpoint exactly what hip flexors are:

  • Iliopsoas muscle is actually two muscles working together to stabilize the lower back – the psoas (my personal nemesis) and the Iliacus.  The psoas is SO hard to stretch because it runs from the lumbar spine (mid back) into and through the pelvis to attach to the thigh bone (femur).  The iliacus muscle attaches the pelvis to the thigh bone; its purpose is to rotate the thigh.
  • Rectus femoris muscle attaches the pelvis to the knee and the quadriceps muscle, which is used in squatting and lunging.
  • Sartorius muscle goes from the pelvis to the knee and flexes the knee and leg.
  • Pectineus muscle, more commonly known as the groin muscle, is used in hip flexion, thigh rotation, and adduction.

All of these hip flexor muscles work together to stabilize the spine, and to allow us to have hip flexion.  Now let’s examine some signs that your hip flexors are tight.  

  • The most obvious sign is these muscles just feel tight, even when you try to stretch them. 
  • You experience a tightness or pain in your lower back, especially when you stand up.  (This one is me!)
  • You have poor posture and have a hard time standing up straight.
  • You have neck tightness and pain.  (Yes!  Hip flexors affect our entire back!
  • You experience pain in the glutes.

To sum all this up, tight hips can negatively affect our whole body, especially our lower back.  To alleviate low back pain, you can’t go wrong with foam rolling, icing, and/or stretching.  However, if you fail to address the underlying problem, the problem and the pain will persist.  

Tight hip flexor muscles will shorten, which pulls on the lumbar spine of your lower back causing the muscles of your lower back to tighten and cause pain.  That dreaded psoas (remember, my personal nemesis?) is attached straight to the vertebrae of the lower spine.  It’s really hard to stretch because of its location, and once it tightens and shortens, it can cause some serious pain.  For me personally, it’s always the right side and reminds me of experiencing a kidney stone!  It can become really painful.

Specifically quoted from spineuniverse.com:  “From the perspective of a doctor of physical therapy, Tony Matoska, PT, DPT, CMPT, Clinic Manager for Athletico Muskego, WI and Wisconsin Spine Specialty Program Regional Coordinator for Athletico, notes that “tight hips and hamstrings are more likely to affect your lower back than your middle or upper back (thoracic spine).”

In addition to muscle tightness in the hips, Matoska notes that stiff hip joints can lead to lower back pain. “A lack of rotational motion and ability to flex or extend your hip forwards or backwards can affect your walking, running, swinging, and twisting motions and increase mechanical strain on your lower back.”

So now that we see the connection between hip flexors and low back pain, what do we do about it?  Stretching is incredibly important!  Before you begin any workout – dancing, lifting, running, swimming – stretch!  Take the time to stretch; it’s more than worth it!  Strengthening the hip flexors is also incredibly important.   Include lunges, lying leg raises, kettlebell swings, hanging leg raises, glute bridges, and Bulgarian split squats to strengthen those muscles.

And, of course, YOGA!  There are SO many yoga stretches to stretch and strengthen your hip flexors and lower back – in the same session!  You can easily fit 10 to 15 minutes of yoga when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed at night.  (Yes, you can.  Make the time; it’s that important!)  Include child’s pose, forward folds (standing and seated), butterfly pose, pigeon, sleeping pigeon, lizard, seated and supine twists, just to name a few.  Please check out the Yoga section on this web site if you’re local to me for class locations and times!  If you’re not local, please find a local yoga studio or gym that offers yoga classes.  You’ll be SO glad you did!

Start taking proactive care of your hip flexor muscles to improve your overall posture and relieve, if not prevent, low back pain! 

It’s Wellness Audit Time!

How are you feeling?  Seriously, how are you really feeling? Have you ever taken a wellness audit?  Memorial Day weekend is officially ushering in Summer.  Are you ready?  Do you feel ready to truly enjoy this summer, to make the most of it?  Let’s make sure by auditing your overall wellness – take inventory of YOUR overall health and fitness level today.   We will also look at potential solutions for any areas that can be improved.  

Physical wellness basically includes a variety of health behaviors and habits such as adequate exercise, proper nutrition, self care, and avoiding harmful habits (consuming excessive alcohol, smoking or vaping, and/or drug abuse).  As you read through this blog, intentionally and mindfully assess your personal health.  Honestly determine where you are, and where you want to be regarding your overall health and fitness.  

According to many sources, (www.theartoffitnessandlife.com, www.grcc.edu, https://www.rwu.edu) there are seven (7) areas or “pillars” of wellness:

1. Mental

2. Physical

3. Social

4. Financial

5. Spiritual

6. Environmental

7. Vocational

This blog will focus more on the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual areas.  So let’s dive right into this audit!  Unless you want to share your answers with someone, no one will know your answers.  So, for your own best benefit, be brutally honest as you assess yourself in all of these areas!

PHYSICAL

How are you truly feeling?  

  • Have you had a complete physical checkup to know your numbers?  We’re talking blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid, hormone levels, etc.
  • How is your ability to perform basic physical activities such as:
    • Walking up and down stairs
    • Getting up from seated or from sitting in the floor
  • How is your energy level to perform basic activities such as cooking meals and household chores?
  • Do you find that you frequently:
    • Get headaches
    • Notice that your clothes getting uncomfortably tight
    • Feel bloated
    • Suffer from digestive issues
    • experience excessive water retention 
    • Feel lethargic, with little to no energy
    • Feel more aches and pains throughout your body, specifically in your joints

MENTAL:

How are you processing daily circumstances?  Are  you having more bad days or good days?  Honestly evaluate the following:

  • Do you feel cranky and moody often?
  • Overall, do daily irritations like traffic and encountering difficult situations tend to ruin your day or roll off your back?
  • How do you handle stress and stressful situations?  Do you have stress management techniques or tools in place?
  • When facing a problem, do you tend to give up or find solutions?
  • Have you set any personal goals?

EMOTIONAL:

  • Do you find, overall, that you tend to look for the bad or the good in each day?  
  • Is your mindset overwhelmingly positive or negative?
  • What are the things you most look forward to?
  • When you look in the mirror, are you content with who and/or what you see?
  • Do you have family and/or friends who encourage and support you or drain you?
  • How is the quality of your sleep?

SOCIAL:

Believe it or not, this is honestly a crucial area!  Assess who is truly in your innermost circle, and who is in your “outer” circle.

  • Do those closest to you energize you and bring you peace, or do you find that they drain you mentally and emotionally?
  • Do you have family and/or friends who are honest with you as well as supportive, rather than critical?
  • Do you have a support circle who helps you find solutions? 
  • Do you feel safe being honest in return with those in your circle?  

SPIRITUAL:

While this area may not seem important enough to be in the top 5, I can assure you from my personal experience that it truly is!  If you know me, you already know that I absolutely and unashamedly love Jesus.  He is my Savior, my Heavenly Father,  Redeemer, best friend, healer, comforter, conscience, etc.  Without faith in someone bigger than myself, I would feel lost.  My strength literally comes from Him.  I know that He is in control, and that in order to get the very most and best out of my life, I need to be anchored in Him and in His Word.  Being part of an active, Bible-believing church family feeds my heart, mind, and soul.  It gives me an opportunity to be fed spiritually and an opportunity to serve others.  All of these things are so very important!  So, let’s assess a few spiritual health areas:

  • Are you plugged into a faith-based community?
  • Are you feeding your faith?  This can include worship and/or prayer services, small groups, Bible studies, and Bible study groups.
  • Are you serving in some capacity?  Are you giving of yourself – not just money, but your talent and your time?
  • Are you practicing counting your blessings as much, if not more, than your problems?

Take a few minutes to honestly assess yourself in all of these areas.  I would encourage you to make notes.  You know I love the idea of journaling.  If you aren’t already journaling, start one today.  Make any notes you have about this wellness audit.  Writing these things down can help you in SO many ways!  Maybe you’re finding that you’re a little better off than you originally thought!  That’s a very encouraging thing to have written – to see it in print, not just thinking it.  If you find that you have more areas to improve than you thought, writing them down gives you a “ground zero” to start with!  Write any ideas you have to improve, then make a plan to get started.

For the physical topic, list the things that you are most concerned about.  How can you improve these things?  First of all, if something is a challenge to you – you need to do more of it!  For example, if walking up any set of stairs is a struggle for you – then you decide today that you are going to take every set of stairs you see!  Yes, it will be hard at first – you’ll definitely be out of breath, and it might take you longer to get there than taking an elevator.  But after a couple of weeks, you’ll find that it’s easier!  If getting up and down is difficult for you – make a plan to put exercises into practice daily that will make that easier for you.  (Mix in squats, lunges, crunches, plank.) Here’s the thing – every single one of us is aging.  As our bodies age, fitness abilities, flexibility, and mobility will disappear if we don’t use them.  However, no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to improve!  We will all need to maintain balance, flexibility, and mobility as we age to remain active and independent.  You have nothing to lose (except your excuses) and everything to gain!

How do you feel about your mental and emotional audits?  These are choices, my friends.  The spiritual and social areas directly feed into these as well.  Time with Jesus and a strong faith make you more mentally and emotionally stable and strong.  A strong support group will do the same, and can certainly be found in a faith-based community like a church home or Bible study group.  And of course, when you are physically active and have an exercise program and healthy nutrition, your mood and stress level are positively affected!  Get out your calendar and write down times each day that you will move – get outside for a walk, take an exercise class, plug in an at-home exercise program.  Write down a day that you will grocery shop, and a day that you will prepare your meals in advance.  Plan your meals, then make your grocery list and DO NOT deviate from that list!

Look at what you can improve rather than focus on what needs improvement!   Set new goals (small, easy to achieve and big) and make a plan for yourself to reach them.  As you implement steps, you’ll find that you are more encouraged and determined to succeed which pushes you to continue.  Once you reach a small goal, you’ll find that you feel much more confident and motivated to crush other goals!

A personal trainer or wellness coach can certainly help you break these things down and make a new plan that is 100% doable.  I can promise you that it is more than worth the investment.  I would love to help you be the very best you can be!  Please feel free to contact me to talk about your wellness audit and goals!