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Sunday
Jan172016

How Are Those Resolutions Going?

More than two weeks in...are you chugging along with your New Year's goals or have you joined the 25% who give up after one week (as studies suggest). Overall, less than half of people who make resolutions stick with them the following six months. But to be honest I'm impressed that even close to half do make it!

There are endless articles about how to deal with New Year's resolutions, so of course I'm adding another. It can't hurt to get as much encouragement and ideas that you can because even if you follow through with just one goal this year, you will be a better person than you were last year.

First I have to plug an article written by my colleague, Lauren Mayer of Decidedly Nutritious, and moi entitled Six ways to keep your New Year's resolutions. Realistic, practical reminders for the long haul!

Then check out favorite resolution reinforcements shared by New England Stop & Shop nutritionist Julie Hersey, MS, RD, LDN: 

  1. Stick to one small and realistic resolution. Example: When trying to cut back on sweets, end meals with a piece of fresh fruit to help tame your cravings. When cutting back on soda intake, switch to flavored seltzer water.
  2. Build connections to a new habit by stacking with an established habit. Example: If you are working towards drinking more water, have one glass in the morning before brushing your teeth.  
  3. Seek non-food rewards that complement your goals. Buy a new smoothie blender, great-fitting running shoes, a massage session or a colorful reusable water bottle. 
  4. Make a list of distractions to avoid food cravings and binges like brushing your teeth, taking a bath, walking the dog, or calling a friend.
  5. Boost your breakfast satisfaction with protein-rich foods like eggs, cottage cheese, low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, nut/nut butters or seeds. 
  6. To keep afternoon cravings in check while getting an extra dose of nutrients and healthful fats, keep a pack of pre-portioned nuts or seeds in your purse.
  7. Pre-plan meals by creating a list of dinner meals that you know your family loves. Balance each menu with a protein, starch and a vegetable (or two).

Remember, you can’t undo a lifetime of unhealthy habits overnight. Keep your goal in mind every day and track your progress. Consider journaling or using an app. Most of all, be patient and flexible with yourself. Resiliency, or the ability to recover quickly from difficulties and change, is key to success!

Sunday
Jan032016

Saying Farewell to Zumba

...at least for now that is. A New Year is the right time for change. Zumba has been a huge part of my life for more than 7 years; I admit reluctantly at first. The first time I took a Zumba class I didn't like it. It was a new style of dance fitness introduced by only a few instructors in the Boston area at the time. I was used to regular dance classes with breakdowns of blocks of choreography that would be practiced continuously and then strung together as a finale performance. Zumba was so different, not much breakdown or instruction, just follow the leader. Ten to twelve different songs, all unfamiliar Latin beats. I tried different Zumba classes but still no likes. 

That's why it surprises me that it has lasted this long in my life, and that I part with it with mixed feelings. I started teaching cardio dance classes around 2008 but Zumba was exploding in Boston. All of a sudden every gym wanted it on their class schedules. At one of my gyms, I was given the option to stay with my dance class or change to Zumba. Since I was already Zumba certified, I took a chance and changed. Fast forward to 2016 and I'm still teaching Zumba in that same time slot. It's a progressive gym with new classes every year including popular dance formats like Body Jam and SH'BAM, but Zumba has stayed put.

My students and employers were bewildered when I asked for the change starting this month (this would also include stopping Zumba Step, which I've taught for 2 years). Why change a successful full class? They asked that I change back to the Zumba formats if my new formats were not successful. I agreed but even if a failure, I needed to try. In my opinion, change is the most important factor for personal growth and ironically also staying young at heart. Think of the flipside: staying in the same situation for too long, especially if not dynamic enough, can kindle complacency and increasing resistance to new ideas. In other words, you get stale!

Today I can honestly say I enjoy Zumba and the effect it has on people. Those who usually hate exercise often tolerate Zumba if not completely love it because it's fun and time flies by. I have great respect for the company, which offers wonderful support to its instructor network. Teaching Zumba has pulled me out of an introverted shell so that engaging a large crowd no longer causes a panic attack. It has helped to take the focus of off me and onto others. To not be afraid of the eye contact that connects me with someone who may be going through a tough time or just needs a healthy escape for an hour. It has offered camaraderie with long time loyal students I adore who are trusting me as I force change upon them as well.  

Because of all these great things, I say farewell for now with gratitude, mixed feelings and a little fear. But I guess those are the stepping stones needed to take one to the next level.

 

 

Sunday
Dec062015

Why I Love Bliss Balls

If you're an Instagrammer and search the hashtags #healthysnack or #energysnack, you may be surprised to see photos of little dough-like balls instead of the expected fresh fruit or protein bars. They have various names—bliss balls, energy bites, energy balls. I find them to be truly blissful for two reasons:

Photo credit: Gimme Some Oven. This site first inspired me to make bliss balls. Click on the image for more recipes.1. They're easy to make, quick to prepare and taste good, my main criteria when trialing a new healthful recipe. Bliss balls require about 4-5 ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen and don't need to be baked or cooked. You start with a binder ingredient, something sticky to hold the ball together, like peanut butter (or almond butter or sunflower seed butter) and/or a sticky fruit like dates or figs. Then add whatever additional ingredients you like. This is the second most awesome thing about bliss balls...

2. They are completely versatile to fit whatever your taste preference or food philosophy. Vegan? Try almond butter, dates, raw cacao powder, diced nuts, wheat germ. Gluten-free? Try peanut butter, chocolate chips, flaxseeds, gluten-free oats. Nut-free? Try sunflower seed butter, honey, oats, coconut. Whether you need high protein or low sugar, there will be a perfect bliss ball for you.

Another reason I love these treats is that they are truly satisfying. How often do you reach for a store bought chocolate chip cookie and eat one, two, three+ servings? It might not be because you lack self-control. Maybe it's because the cookies don't gratify. Many cookies use processed ingredients that strip any real flavor. Sure there are cookies that add a ton of sugar or high fat ingredients to make up for it, but then you get an overly sweet, greasy product. Bliss balls use whole ingredients with distinctive flavors that you'll notice as you savor each bite. And that's the goal with any treat: eat slowly, appreciate the flavors, and experience true enjoyment with a smaller portion. Compare that with gobbling down 10 conventional chocolate cookies, not remembering the taste, and reaching for something else to eat 30 minutes later!

Consider bringing bliss balls to a holiday party this month. You can use festive ingredients of dried cranberries, cherries or nuts and dust with confectioners sugar. You can dip in white or dark chocolate. The options are endless.

Below is an example of a bliss ball recipe. I couldn't remember the exact amounts so I estimated. But feel free to add more or less of whatever you like! Makes about a dozen, depending on how big or small you prefer them.

4-Ingredient Vegan Bliss Balls

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dates

1 cup raw or roasted cashews

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup chocolate chips (try Enjoy Life brand if vegan)

Directions

  1. If the dates are hard, place in bowl covered with water and soak for an hour to soften. Using a food processor or blender, blend dates into small bits. Add cashews and blend into small bits. 
  2. Remove mixture from blender and place into bowl. Fold in wheat germ and chocolate chips. 
  3. Roll into balls of desired size and arrange on a plate. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before eating. Store in refrigerator for about one week, although I have stored them longer and they taste fine!