Avoiding Snacks In The Teachers’ Lounge

We’ve all been here before.  We’ve set a health or weightloss goal and told ourselves “this time is going to be different.”  We’ve been getting to the gym as we promised.  And we’ve been sticking to the meal plan, at least for the most part (those thin mint cookies don’t count because they helped the Girl Scouts, right).  But when we walk into the teachers’ lounge at work and we see that someone has brought in the snacks.  Just seeing those doughnuts or birthday cake, we all of the sudden have the self-control of a preschooler. Time and time again we are unable to avoid the snacks in teachers’ lounge, and it sends us into a feeling of disappointment and self-sabotage.

DoughnutsStop beating yourself up.

The bottom line is this: We have a finite amount of willpower and the more we have to use it, the more drained of its strength it becomes.  Think of it like a battery.  There’s only so much juice in it, and once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back for the rest of the day.

 

So how do we stay the course and not fall victim to temptation?

The trick is to get a better understanding of what’s going on in our minds and then game the system to put us in a position of success, as opposed to a position of failure.

First we need to understand that we are all hard-wired a little different from the next person.  This was proven back in 1972 though the now famous Stanford marshmallow test.  The short version of the experiment is that Walter Mischel wanted to test the process of delayed gratification on a group of 4 year olds.  So with parent consent, he brought them individually into a room and sat them at a table with a marshmallow on it.  He told them that they could eat the marshmallow now, or if they could wait a short amount of time, when he came back in they would get a second marshmallow if the first had not yet been eaten.  Mischel found that 1/3 of the kids ate the marshmallow as soon as he left the room. 1/3 were able to hold out a few minutes, but ultimately gave into temptation.  And 1/3 were able to wait it out for the 15-20 minutes before he returned and enjoyed 2 marshmallows as a reward for their will-power.

Now your mind is a muscle in the sense that the more you practice using it, the stronger it can become.  But the truth is that some of us have more willpower than others, and have a greater potential to improve this willpower over time.

So which kid from the Stanford test to see yourself as?  Do you rush over to the doughnuts in the teachers’ lounge?  Or do you have no problem standing near them and avoiding the temptation?

So if step 1 is to understand your personal temptation resistance level, then step 2 is to understand that your resistance level is affected by many factors that can weaken it throughout the day.  Many studies have shown that when we are stressed, tired, or feeling like there are too many tasks to deal with simultaneously we will cave into temptation.  And it doesn’t matter what our temptation resistance level is, we are going to struggle when these issues are in play.

Stressed, tired, and feeling like a circus performer who is balancing all of those spinning plates pretty much sums up a day in the life of every American teacher.  So no wonder why this becomes such an issue.  It’s like stepping up the batter’s box  in a baseball game and already having two strikes against you.

So here is the solution.  Instead of relying on willpower to get us through the temptations that are holding us back, we need to setup roadblocks to limit our exposure to these temptations.

Remember, those thin mints I’ve mentioned already in this blog?  I keep them hidden in my freezer at home.  They are out of plain sight and not easy to get to.  This way I am not seeing constant reminders of them.  And when they are gone, they are gone.  The empty box will not be replaced by a new one, unless I want the cycle to continue.  This is also why we help people clean out their cupboards of junk food when we help them with our FREE 7 day clean eating challenges.  Because you have to set up those roadblocks which make it difficult for you to continue your unhealthy habits if you have any hope of replacing them with better choices.

roadblockHarvard Professor and New York Times best-selling author Shaun Anchor has coined the idea of the “20 second rule” which works great for avoiding temptation.  Shaun points out that we should lower the amount of activation energy needed for habits we want to adapt while raising the amount of activation energy for habits we want to avoid.  Basically, the harder it is to do something the less likely we are to do it.  We need to get past those initial 20 seconds of temptation by making it harder for us to fall victim to them.

So avoiding the temptations of those sweets and treats makes more sense than trying to tough it out and remain strong while having them within an arm’s length of our grasp.  Eating a healthy snack while near those treats keeps our hands and mouth occupied.  Likewise, going into the teacher’s lounge before school instead of near the end of the day makes it less likely that our paths will cross with these tempting items.

This is also why I’m a big advocate for at home fitness programs.  There are less obstacles to completing a workout at home than if you have to drive to the gym or some outside location in order to exercise.  Something always comes up.  And if you factor in getting the kids to the gym also so you can exercise, the difficulty of being consistent with the task increases exponentially.

The bottom line is this: You aren’t going to rid the world of temptations.  Those snacks are going to be there regardless of it’s the gas station convenience store, the supermarket, or even the teacher’s lounge.  But you can set yourself up for success by avoiding limiting your time in these places as much as possible.  And when you do have to go there, have a healthy snack ready to eat instead of those treats that are sabotaging your efforts.

To your health,

Mark

How To Make Breakfast Quinoa

breakfast quinoaI’m always telling my clients and members of my online challenge groups that it’s important to make sure you are getting protein with every meal.  And yes, this includes breakfast.  But too often people feel limited by their protein options during breakfast. Eggs and oatmeal are great, but maybe you don’t like eggs.  Maybe that’s what you’ve been having for breakfast every for the past few weeks and it’s getting boring.  Fat free Greek yogurt (without the added sugars) is a good option too.  But many people have digestive issues when it comes to dairy.  A meal replacement shake is another great option, but what if that’s your post workout meal for later in the day.  Chances are you don’t want to be replacing more than one meal per day with a shake.  So before you throw in the towel and just say that healthy eating is not for you, I have a potential solution to help add variety to your breakfast options.  And the answer is quinoa.

 Yes this is the same quinoa that maybe you’ve had on a salad or had as a side dish with lunch or dinner instead of rice or another starchy carbohydrate.  Quinoa is such a great food option that mixing up your routine by sometimes making some breakfast quinoa gives you more ways to add this grain to your diet.

If you are not familiar with all of the health benefits of quinoa, you are in for a surprise.  In fact it is so nutrient dense that many health experts consider it to be a “super food.”  First off quinoa is a good source of plant based protein yielding 8g of protein per 1 cup serving.  It’s also high in fiber with 5g per cup.  Quinoa is a great source for many minerals that most people are lacking such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron.  It’s also a great source for vitamins that double as antioxidants, the chemicals that neutralize cancer causing free radicals.  There are many other benefits to quinoa, but by now I think you get the idea.

So how do turn quinoa into a breakfast dish?  It’s easy and below is a basic recipe to follow where you can make several servings and then simply reheat them as needed throughout the week.  In fact my weekly food prep almost always making a few cups of breakfast quinoa so I have it on hand and I never get bored of having the same foods every day.

Ingredients

1 cup of dry quinoa

2 cups of water

¼ cup unsweetened almond milk

1 pinch of sea salt

1 Tbsp of vanilla

1 Tbsp of Cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Place quinoa in a fine sieve and rise with cold water.  Once rinsed, add the quinoa to a medium sauce pan along with the 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, cover, and let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes (or until all of the liquid is absorbed).  Stir occasionally to make sure that the quinoa doesn’t stick to the bottom of the sauce pan.
  3. Add the almond milk, vanilla, and cinnamon to the pan and fluff the quinoa mixing all of the ingredients together.  Let it cool and absorb the liquid.
  4. Once cooled the quinoa can be eaten immediately or stored in the refrigerator and used throughout the week.

How To Not Gain Weight While On Vacation

PP beachSummer is here and it’s time to relax and go on a vacation.  You’ve been going to the gym and watching what you’ve been eating for weeks (or months) to make sure you can fit into that swimsuit and like what you are going to see when you post your pics on social media.  So why would you undo all of your hard work with a week of overindulging in paradise?  If you are wondering how to not gain weight while on vacation, you are not alone.

The truth is that by following these 4 simple steps you can avoid much of the vacation weight gain that plagues so many others.  In fact, my family and I just spent a week in Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), Mexico where I was able to test out all of these tips first hand.  And I’m happy to say that my wife and I each weigh a pound less than when we left.

Tip 1. Start your day with a workout

If you enjoy spending your days lounging at the pool or the beach, starting your day with a quick 30 minute workout will help speed up your metabolism and burn those calories throughout the day.  When you check into your hotel, ask at the front desk where the gym is located.  This way you already know where you can to get in an easy round of circuit training if you don’t have a specific workout routine you are currently doing.  Chances are there will be a variety of cardio equipment available too.  If you prefer to exercise outside, a swim in the pool or a run/walk outside a great to get you sweating before breakfast.

Tip 2. Don’t make food the center of your vacation

PP tide poolsIt’s easy to find yourself wanting to have a those desserts at the buffet or a few adult beverages, but don’t go overboard on them.  A good rule of thumb is one treat meal a day.  If you get breakfast, fruit and an egg white omelet are going to be good choices.  For lunch, it’s hard to go wrong with some lean protein and veggies.  It was great when were in Mexico because the beachfront condo we stayed at had a full kitchen.  This allowed us to bring most of our food so we weren’t always going out.  We brought a few coolers and bags with our favorite foods in them to enjoy throughout the week.  If you won’t have a kitchen available to you, a great tip is that you can always pack some foods in your luggage before heading to the airport.  On past trips almond milk, PB2, my Shakeology packets, and a blender bottle have all found their way into my suitcase and I can quickly make a shake as ofe of my daily meals

Tip 3. Stay hydrated

It’s very easy to confuse hunger for thirst and feed your body calories when all it really needs is some water. And if you are going to a location that’s warmer that what you are used to, chances are you are going to need to drink more water than normal (especially if you’ve had a few drinks the night before).  An easy to follow rule is to bring a water bottle with you whenever you leave the room and take sips throughout the day.  It will help prevent dehydration and while limiting hunger cravings.  We actually brought 2 cases of water with us from Costco on our trip and I’m so glad we did.  It was great having something to sip on at the pool so I didn’t feel the need for a beer or one of those drinks with the umbrella in them.

Tip 4. Get active.PP fishing

Before you go on your trip do a little research about what’s available near where you are staying.  Are their places to walk and see the sights?  Are there water sports or beach activities?  Maybe you just like to check out the local shops.  All of these activities will get you moving.  I know for our group we were checking out the tide pools after breakfast, playing in the pool, and then walking (or riding horses) along the beach at sunset.  When I combine these activities with my morning runs along the beach and a few afternoon sessions lifting weights in the gym, I was burning just as many calories each day on vacation as I did back home.

Overall, it was a great trip for my family and these tips all helped me stay on track for my goals without gaining weight.  We can’t wait to go back down there next year and make new memories.  I hope your next trip is full of great memories too.

 

To your health,

Mark

7 Tips Eating Healthy On A Budget

7 TIPS FOR EATING HEALTHY ON A BUDGET

eating-healthy-on-a-budget

Eating healthy on a budget isn’t a myth.  But too often people believe it’s not possible and settle for food that isn’t in line with their goals.  Time and time again I see people busting their butts working out to the point of exhaustion, yet they aren’t seeing the results that they desire.

 The truth is that you can’t outwork a bad diet.  I know this from personal experience.  For years I would spend hours each week running and lifting weights only to follow it up by not eating healthy.

When talking with clients, friends, and family about their nutrition, people generally fall into one of two categories.  Either they feel it costs too much money to eat healthy or it takes too much time to prepare healthy food.  So most people resort to fast food, restaurants, and meals that we can unwrap and heat quickly.  And truth be told, you can’t look like a million bucks when you are eating off the dollar menu.

So here are 7 simple tips to help you get started eating healthy on a budget.  This way you can match the efforts you are putting in the kitchen with the efforts you are putting in the gym.

Think of Healthy Eating As Investment

Before any positive actions can take place you must have a positive mindset.  And this includes looking at food as an investment in your health.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “you are what you eat.”  And this is 100% true because in addition to supplying our bodies with energy, our food becomes the building blocks for the building and repair of our cells, tissues, and organs.  You wouldn’t want a contractor to use cheap materials when building your house, would you?   So why would your body be any different?

Create A Healthy Eating Meal Plan For The Week

If you just walk into the grocery store without an idea of what you are going to need for the week, chances are that you are going to buy a bunch of items that are not really needed.  And this is going to cost you a lot of extra money.  While we don’t eat the exact same meals days after day, we do generally have 10-20 “go-to” meals that all of the members in our family will eat.  So we plan around those for dinner time.

For breakfast my wife and I also have a few staples that we rotate through. Breakfast quinoa, a protein shake, and egg whites and fruit have become our staples.  We also map out what are we having for our meals throughout the day.  Are we able to eat at home or are we going to be on the go and we need food that we can take with us.  Fruits, veggies, lean protein like sliced turkey breast, and hard boiled eggs have become our version of ‘fast food.”

tips-for-healthy-eating-on-a-budget

Buy Healthy Food When It’s On Sale

Because the majority of what we buy is better cuts of meat and fresh fruits and vegetables, we tend to look at the ads and buy certain items when they are on sale.  For instance, chicken breasts can be found near me for as little as $1.99 a pound or as expensive as $6.99 a pound.  So when these items go on sale I tend to buy a lot and then freeze them.  For instance, in researching this article I found that one of the 3 local grocery stores did have boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.99 a pound.  And as a result I wound up buying almost 20 pounds of chicken.  My standard serving size is 4 ounces, so in fact I just bought almost 80 servings of chicken.  That should get me through the month and keep my price per meal low too.

Shop Around When Eating Healthy On The Cheap

Too often we get in the routine of always going to the same stores to buy the same items, even if they don’t always have the best prices.  A quick way to start is by checking out the weekly inserts from your local stores with what they are advertising on sale that week.  And then you can go beyond this by checking out websites such as mygrocerydeals.com.  I have used this site many times when looking to stock up on certain staples that I can buy 1-2 times per month and then freeze or store.  This tip alone can literally save you $100’s of dollars in groceries in the coming months.

Create A Grocery List 

To build off of tip number 2, you want to have a game plan when you get to the grocery store.  If you just went through the aisles of your supermarket and put anything and everything that caught your eye in your cart you will be spending a small fortune while bringing home a bunch of food that won’t be helping you reach your health and fitness goals.  You need to make a grocery list when eating healthy on a budget and stick to that list.  Start in the produce section, go to the meat section, and then just go down the aisles you need to go down.  Get in and get out of the store as quickly as possible.  Both your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

Leave The Kids At Home.  Shop Alone.

As a husband and father of 3, it’s always more expensive to shop with others than to shop alone.  Time and time again, shopping with others tends to lead to items being added to the cart that weren’t on the grocery list. For example, my kids will almost certainly ask for snacks and dessert items that I know we could go without, but I generally break down and buy them one or the other.  And while this doesn’t seem to add a lot to our grocery bill, when we multiply it by 50-60 trips to the supermarket during the year, it can add up in a hurry.

Don’t shop when you are hungry

The food in the grocery store is designed to get you to purchase it.  It’s that simple.  From the packaging to the placement in the isles, supermarkets have a game plan to make food appealing to all of your senses.  This is why it’s important to not go to the grocery store when you are hungry.  From the smells as you walk past the bakery to the colors of the packages that bring out memories and emotions that connect to hunger, everything is designed to be appealing.  My recommendation is if you are hungry, get yourself a healthy snack or small meal before grocery shopping.  You’ll make better food choices when you aren’t shopping on an empty stomach.

Well there you have it.  If you have any questions about shopping that I didn’t cover in this article, send me an email and I’d be happy to help you out.

Until next time,

Mark

Get in Shape during Summer Break

beachIt’s that time of year again.  You can feel it when you walk down the halls of your school.  And you notice that’s it’s a little harder to get out of bed each morning to go to work.  Maybe you’ve just noticed a rise in the amount of students asking “what can I do to raise my grade” or “is there any extra credit I can do”.  Summer Break is almost here!  It’s a teacher’s chance to recharge and refocus before the following school year is upon us.  Summer break is also a chance for teachers to improve their health and fitness by getting in shape.

While schools and districts aren’t identical in the length are dates for when they hold their summer break, chances are that your break will be around 7-10 weeks long.  And that’s plenty of time to build a fitness foundation if you have never made an effort at getting in shape.

I recommend you keep things simple and consistent during the summer.  You may be going on a trip or two, but for the most part you should be able to keep your routine going with the idea of transitioning it into the next school year.  My recommendation for both beginner’s and those with more experience is to have a plan with 3 components: nutrition, weight training, and cardiovascular exercise.  Don’t worry if that seems like a lot of moving parts.  As promised, we are going to keep it simple.

Nutrition

Believe it or not, your nutrition during your summer break is more important than the type and amount of exercise you do in reaching your summer fitness goals.  Many experts claim that it’s as much as 80% responsible for your results.  From my experience you can’t outwork a bad diet.  So even if you are exercising 7 days a week, if you are not making good food choices you will not see good results.

The first step with nutrition is to plan on eating 5-6 small meals throughout the day.  Eat your first meal within an hour of waking up to boost your metabolism and then make sure you are eating every 2-3 hours from that point forward.  While not every meal is going to be identical in calories, aim for somewhere between 250-400 calories per meal.   This way the 100 calories snack pack or the 1200 calorie hamburger and fries aren’t being viewed as appropriate meals.

At first this may seem very unusual considering most teachers barely get time to pee during the school day let alone eat.  But it’s not the school year, so don’t worry about it.  Later this summer I’ll teach you how to plan your meals for when you are at school and short on time.

Again with the idea of keeping it simple, make it your goal to eat protein with every meal.  This could be as simple as a few hardboiled eggs, a small handful of almonds, or 3-4 ounces of lean meat or fish.  Adding protein in with each meal will help keep you feeling full even if your meals are smaller than what you have eaten in the past.  You also want to be eating 5-6 servings of vegetables a day.  Find the ones you like and stick to them.  A salad at lunch and dinner would each be 2-3 servings.  If you are not a salad eater, make it a goal to add a cup of your favorite veggies to 3 meals during the day and we will build from there.

Weight Training

I know that just by writing the words “weight training” I am taking some of you out of your comfort zone.  And that’s alright.  Some form of weight training needs to be part of your fitness plan to help improve your overall health.  Weight training does more than just help build muscle (which pound for pound, burns 19X more calories compared to fat).  It also will help strengthen your bones, improve your balance, and benefit your heart.

Several studies have shown that people who incorporate weight training into their weekly routines are more likely to keep the weight they lose off due to an increased metabolism during their basic daily activities (the things you do during the day when you are not working out).  In addition, weight training has a metabolic effect of continuing to burn calories after your workout that is not seen from cardiovascular activities.

Contrary to what you may believe, weight training does not have to be done in a gym.  Nor do you actually need weights to begin.  You can use your body weight and actually get started in your own home.  Push-ups, body weight squats, lunges, and chair dips are all great exercises that can be done with limited equipment.  And when you are ready you can either join a gym or purchase a few pieces of equipment and start building your won home-gym.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Many people consider cardiovascular exercise or “cardio” to be a 4-letter word and dread it like taxes and public speaking, but it should be part of every fitness plan in one form or another.  Cardio can be defined as any exercise that increases your heart rate and speeds up the flow of blood throughout the body.  And all forms of cardio will force the body to burn more calories than at rest because of the energy demands needed to keep the body moving.

Like I mentioned above with weight training, cardiovascular exercise does not require any fancy equipment or a gym membership.  At its most basic form running and walking are both examples of cardio that can be done almost anywhere.