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Monday
Jan262015

How To Unbreak Those Broken Resolutions

Still working on this one...Meta asked me to share a post on broken resolutions, because it’s something we can all relate to. I've had a few: do at least 15 minutes of yoga daily, eat more greens, get to bed earlier. But my main broken resolution is one I’ve been working on for three years now! Less screen time. I wrote a post about my attempt to limit it in 2012. At the time it felt like screen time was interfering with potential time spent with family/friends, reading books (the kind with paper pages) or just getting out of the house.

I think it’s been hard to meet this goal because almost everything I do (for work and play) involves a device. It’s not an excuse, really. But because of that I’ve realized the need to modify the goal, and hopefully that will make this year a success. I’ll get back to my strategies for that later.

The other part of this post I wanted to share was how I help my clients with their weight loss or nutrition goals. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips that work better than others to keep them on track:

  1. Create no more than 1-2 resolutions because you need to put your full energy and focus into the goal. Try to choose a resolution you are dedicated and passionate to change, because you'll need a high level of motivation to keep going when one or two months pass and the passion cools. Make sure it’s you (and not your doctor, significant other, mother) who is fueling your resolution.
  2. Jillian Michaels asks, “What is your why? Outline and define it.” Dig deeper and ask why you want to make the change. If it’s personal and specific (“I want more energy with my kids,” “I want to sleep better at night”) instead of vague (“I’m supposed to do this”), you’re more likely to stick with it.
  3. Make the resolution measurable, realistic and with a time stamp. Instead of saying "I want to lose a lot of weight!" say "I plan to lose 15 pounds in 3 months because I know I can lose 1 pound a week.” Meta likes to call this idea of making small changes that can lead to good things the "Meta Effect."
  4. Write down the resolution and display it in a visible place, like on your refrigerator, screensaver, bathroom mirror, or car dashboard as a nagging reminder of your commitment. It’s about accountability. You could enlist the help of a trusted friend who checks in with you twice a month, or download an app (any surprise there are at least a dozen New Year’s Resolution apps to help you create, organize and track?). It all depends on how much you want this.
  5. Evaluate your progress once a week, ideally in a quiet moment like on a weekend day, when you can reflect on why you are or are not succeeding with the goal. If you're not making progress, reevaluate your strategy. Don’t feel badly to tweak the goal.

If you’ve tried all the above and still can’t stick with it, maybe you’re not ready for the change. I asked Fen Tung, my fitness contributor, what she does. I figured that with her driven personality, teaching eight exercise classes a week aside from working a full-time job at MIT, she must make and keep all her resolutions! She surprised me by saying that she stopped resolutions because she always broke them. “It almost made me fail more when I made ‘date goals’ with myself because I wouldn’t meet them, and I’d get really frustrated and depressed. I’d give up and say I’d start next week or next month, but then do nothing for months." Fen now believes that wellness should be a lifestyle with no beginning or end. She takes advantage of each new day to do something healthy. “I stopped making these weird rules about starting goals, but just tried my best each day and didn’t beat myself up.”

As for my screen time, I’m working on a few new things. I’ve realized the need to change my environment. If I want to cut down on screen time but my laptop, iPad, iPhone and HDTV are the first thing I see when I walk into a room, what do you think I’ll reach for? I plan to keep as many devices out of sight as possible so at least I won’t automatically reach for them. A big one is keeping the iPad out of the bedroom; once I start browsing it before bed, I don’t stop and lose out on sleep.

I’ve modified my resolution in that some screen time can be productive and uplifting. The past “failed” years haven’t been a complete waste as I’ve learned to identify necessary screen time vs. surfing that leaves me feeling drained and even depressed. I’m identifying and reaching for the moments when online resources teach or inspire. Interestingly, when this happens I can more easily go offline because I like to ponder those gems of inspiration.

I hope this post fuels ideas for your resolutions! Feel free to share your resolutions in the comments and how you plan to stay on track. For more inspiration, check out this funny video below by Meta about Broken Resolutions Blues, then head over to their Facebook page to share your broken resolutions along with how you plan to start fresh in 2015!

Disclosure: I've partnered with P&G on this sponsored post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more information at MetaWellness.com.

Sunday
Jan112015

Quickest Soup Ever

A few years ago I posted Quickest Meal Ever, out of laziness really. It continues to be a mainstay of my weeknight meals, with a few variations of the protein or vegetable. Because it was such a basic boring recipe, I was surprised by the positive reader response, which makes me realize there are others who share my minimalist cooking techniques, at least during the work week.

I've followed up that recipe with a very fast healthful and yummy soup that I've been eating at least 2-3 times a week, especially since the weather has been freezing! It's a tomato tofu bean broccoli soup that is composed entirely of prepared and frozen items. I know it sounds gross with ingredients you've probably never paired together, but somehow it works!

Ready-prepared ingredients for the soup. I didn't use the Brussels sprouts this time but it's a veggie option.

The base is a low sodium creamy tomato soup from Trader Joe's. If you can't get that, try Campbell's Healthy Request Tomato, which isn't as creamy as Trader Joe's but still works. Frozen broccoli is usually chewy and low in flavor, but its texture is perfect here simmered in the tomato broth. Tofu also can be difficult but again it magically enhances this soup. I'd recommend firm or extra firm tofu, plain or flavored. Today I used a baked sesame seasoned tofu (by the way, I love the Nasoya marinated baked tofus...soo delicious even cold out of the package!). The canned beans are optional but will beef up the fiber, iron, protein and extra heartiness. I didn't need to add any salt or seasonings as the tomato and seasoned tofu infused plenty of zestiness.

If you don't have time to press, season and bake tofu, Nasoya's ready-to-eat baked version tastes fantastic. It even makes a great snack right out of the package.

The ingredients sound strange and it doesn't look that appetizing but I promise it tastes GREAT.

Everything is cooked and ready to serve, so simply heat together and eat! You can use this soup as part of a post-holiday "cleanse" or as a filling vegan lunch or dinner. You can add more vegetables or different proteins as desired, or pair with a handful of lentil chips (my review on these Simply 7 Chips is coming next month!) or even a classic grilled cheese sandwich if you need more hearty. This soup is chock full of potassium, protein, fiber and iron while being low in calories and fat. The vitamin C in the tomato soup improves the absorption of iron from the tofu and beans.

Quickest Soup Ever

(Makes one big bowl or 2 smaller servings)

Ingredients 

1 can Campbell's Healthy Request Soup (with 1 can water added) or 2 cups Trader Joe's Low Sodium Creamy Tomato Soup

2 cups frozen broccoli (or other green vegetable)

4-6 ounces baked marinated tofu, chopped into cubes

1/2 cup black, cannellini or red kidney beans (or your favorite), drained and rinsed

Directions

Bring soup and broccoli to boiling on medium-high heat, and then lower to medium heat. Add chopped tofu and beans into pan and heat through. Stir before serving and enjoy. Yummy even after refrigerating and reheating!

Tuesday
Dec302014

What Is Zumba Step?

In the beginning of 2014 a variation of Zumba emerged, called Zumba Step. When I'd first heard in 2013 that it was being developed, I was thrilled because the first class I ever taught as an exercise instructor was advanced step. It seemed this class could be the perfect combination of step and dance fitness. Excited as I was, I couldn't imagine how the two formats could merge. Would it use classic step moves like repeater knees and turn steps, or would it include more Zumba moves, using the step only as a prop? When I took the training with Acea Theroux, he made me a believer. It was an exciting, effective workout that truly did blend Zumba and the feel of a classic step class.

Zumba Step focuses on working the lower body (legs, gluts). The choreography is more basic and the music tempo slightly slower than a regular Zumba class, because you have to work with the step bench. There are plenty of squats and lunges but still with the fun factor of Zumba. A one hour class might include 10-12 songs each with different choreography, similar to a Zumba class. Acea made it look so easy!

Interest at my gym was high so I expected an instant hit of a class. Um, wrong. This has been the most challenging class I've ever taught. There were two types of students trying the class: the longtime steppers and the longtime Zumba-ites. The steppers wanted high intensity and found the lesser cueing frustrating (step instructors are constantly shouting out cues before each move, while Zumba instructors rarely use verbal cues); the Zumba crowd found the toned-down choreography boring and had trouble navigating the step bench. I spent the first few months trying to please each group, realizing that my watered-down class was pleasing no one, including myself.

For once I'm thankful for my stubbornness, and through a journey of trial and errors (many!) I'm still standing with this class and have developed a personal style that I'm sticking with. I guess you could apply a lesson like this to any new scary and unfamiliar venture: Go with your gut. Highlight your strengths. And don't back down when you feel you're doing the right thing, even if some doubt you. But be humble to hear criticism, especially from people you trust.

To give you a taste, below is a basic routine that I use as a warm-up. To try out a Zumba Step class near you, check out the Zumba website!