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Seasonal Changes that Cause Weight Gain

Seasonal Changes that Cause Weight Gain

As seasons change, you may notice a change in your eating and exercise habits. While some of these changes are positive, others can have a negative impact on your choices and lead to unwanted weight gain.

Summer

Summer is a season of fresh, nutritious foods, but a few things may work against your healthy intentions. Backyard barbecues can tempt you with high-calorie burgers, hot dogs, chips, and ice cream. Local fairs and festivals offer deep fried foods and high-sugar desserts. It can be difficult to pass up these once-a-year treats.

Summer can also make it harder to stick to your workouts. Hot temperatures and humidity can leave you feeling lethargic and make it unsafe to exercise outside.

What to do: Be selective about the foods you eat. Choose only those that are true treats, and take the time to savor them. Make a plan for workouts at home or consider a temporary gym membership so you don’t abandon your workouts due to a hot day.

Autumn

Autumn brings cooler temperatures that are ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. Unfortunately, it is also a busy time of year for families. As you adjust to the back-to-school season, you may feel overwhelmed with little time to be active. The extra stress can lead to emotional eating, little exercise, and poor nutrition.

What to do: Find healthy ways to control stress and make those activities a priority. Even 10 minutes of meditation or yoga each morning can set the tone for a healthier day. Get outside when you can. Being in nature is calm and relaxing, which also reduces stress.

Winter

When winter hits, the cravings for high-carbohydrate comfort foods come with it. With fewer fresh foods available, you may fall into a rut with food choices and be tempted by unhealthy comfort foods. As the weeks move into the holiday season, temptations for unhealthy food grows and stress can increase emotional eating. Additionally, shorter days and cold temperatures make squeezing in your workouts more challenging.

What to do: Don’t let the holiday season sneak up on you. Make a plan and apply it as early as October. Choose when you will stick to healthy eating and what is worth a splurge. Plan for a busy schedule and how you will adjust your workouts. Find ways to make your favorite comfort foods healthier by incorporating more vegetables and fewer heavy creams and sauces.

Spring

As you transition out of a long winter, spring weather can be a motivating force to eat healthier and to get moving, but one thing could get you off track. After three months of sticking to your new year’s resolutions it may be tempting to give up, especially if you aren’t seeing the changes you expected. Heading into spring feeling discouraged may prevent you from taking advantage of outdoor workouts and seasonal fresh foods, and cause you to return to old habits.

What to do: Reevaluate your resolutions. Check your progress, and if you aren’t where you want to be, determine if your goals are on track. Perhaps you are expecting too many changes too soon or you are forcing yourself to do an activity you don’t enjoy. If your goals are no longer working, set new ones. Change up your routine to keep both your eating and exercise interesting and exciting.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

What Is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure the blood produces against the artery walls when it is pumped through the body by the heart. When this pressure gets too high, and stays high, it damages the body and can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. High blood pressure is often referred to as hypertension.

When you have your blood pressure taken, the results will contain two numbers. The top number is the systolic blood pressure, which is the force exerted on the arteries when the heart pumps. The bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, is the amount of force produced when the heart is resting between beats. Only one of these numbers needs to be classified as too high to be diagnosed with high blood pressure.

High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it is important to have it checked regularly to ensure that you are within a healthy range. The National Institutes of Health classify normal blood pressure as having a systolic value less than 120 and a diastolic less than 80. Blood pressure fluctuates when you are awake, when you sleep, and in response to stress. If your doctor determines that your blood pressure is staying above this normal level consistently, he or she may diagnose you with prehypertension. This means that your blood pressure reading is 120-139 (systolic) or 80-89 (diastolic). Being prehypertensive means that you are at risk for developing hypertension unless you make changes to prevent it. A blood pressure that measures 140 (systolic) or 90 (diastolic) or above is considered hypertension.

While your doctor may prescribe medication to help control your blood pressure, it is also important that you make lifestyle changes. In fact, a healthy lifestyle has been found to help delay or prevent a rise in blood pressure that occurs naturally with aging. Eating a healthy diet with fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight are all factors that contribute to maintaining normal blood pressure.

How to Reduce Work Stress

reduce work stress

Everyone experiences some stress at work whether it comes from a deadline, meeting a quota, or as a result of difficult coworkers. Problems arise when this stress becomes too much to manage and begins to influence long-term health. According the the Stress in America Survey from the American Psychological Association, 65 percent of Americans say work is a top source of stress.

Work stress can’t be completely eliminated. In fact, a manageable amount of stress helps to keep us motivated. But in order to keep stress from building to unhealthy levels, it’s important to create a plan to identify what causes you stress and how you will manage your reaction to it.

Get organized

A messy, unorganized office can lead to feelings of stress and lack of control. When you organize files and purge unnecessary items, not only will you feel more in control of your work, but less time will be spent searching for things, which can improve productivity. Make your office an orderly space where you feel relaxed and not frazzled.

Prioritize and delegate

You likely feel pulled in many different directions at work with an endless to-do list. Prioritize your tasks each day. Create timelines for longer-term projects so that the tasks you need to complete are clearly outlined. A clearer picture of exactly what needs to be done will allow you to let go of frivolous tasks that keep you from accomplishing more important duties. You can then delegate those tasks to ease your workload and reduce the unnecessary stress that comes with them.

Talk it out

If you have too much to do, admit it. Talk out your work duties with your supervisor or team. Determine a plan to improve productivity and prioritize the most important tasks. Discussing your workload and your stress levels is often all it takes to get the help you need.

Practice relaxation

Deadlines and difficult coworkers can take you from relaxed to stressed in minutes. Take time to practice relaxation, which can help improve your stress response during challenging situations. Five to ten minutes of deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or visualization are easy ways to remain calm. The more you practice these techniques, the better you will get at managing stressful situations.

Find stress relievers

There may be little you can do with the stress that piles up at work, but you do have control of how you let this stress impact your daily life. It’s important to find stress-relieving activities that help clear your mind and give you a mental break from work. Exercise is an essential stress reliever. Whether you push yourself through a 20-minute high intensity interval workout or set out for a leisurely stroll, moving more helps to reduce stress. Turning to unhealthy foods in response to stress only results in sluggishness and weight gain that leads to even more stress. Choosing nutritious foods will keep you energized to face your work challenges. Adequate sleep and taking time for relaxing activities (like yoga, reading, and time with friends) are also important to reduce stress and improve health.

Use your time off

Many people fail to use time off because they are unable to take an extended vacation. But while a week at the beach is nice, short breaks can be equally beneficial. Simply using a vacation day on a Friday or Monday for a long weekend, or taking off an afternoon mid-week will give you a break from your work environment and allow you to enjoy a stress-relieving activity. Take advantage of this time, no matter how short, to create a healthy balance between work and time for yourself.

Tips for Shopping at the Farmers Market

Tips for Shopping at the Farmers Market

The farmers market is one of the best resources for healthy foods. But if you are new to the scene, a visit can be overwhelming. There are a few things to keep in mind that will help you find the foods you want and get the best deals.

Choose your visit wisely.

The best time to attend the farmers market depends on how you would like to experience it. Arrive at opening and you will have the best selection and more time to talk with the vendors. If you like an upbeat atmosphere and don’t mind mingling with the crowds, aim for mid-morning or a couple hours after the market opens. If you are looking for good deals, head to the market just before it closes. The selection may be limited, but many vendors discount items to clear out their booths.

Take a full lap.

Take a walk around the whole market before you commit to a purchase. This allows you to research prices and prevents settling on an item that isn’t exactly what you want. Once you see what the full market has to offer, you can select the best quality for the best price.

Speak up.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The vendors are hoping to establish a relationship with you so that you will become a repeat customer. If you have questions about how a food was grown, how long it can be stored, or the best way to cook it, speak up and ask.

Look for bulk deals.

Often the more you buy, the better price you will get. Many vendors offer a set price and then discount the price if you buy 2 or 3 of the same item. If you don’t see these prices posted, ask if there are any bulk discounts available.

Know your cooking habits.

It’s easy to get overly excited at the market, which often results in buying more food than you can eat. Have an idea of how you will store and use the items you buy. Also look for options that decrease your time in the kitchen. For example, many vendors sell pre-chopped kale and bags of mixed greens that are perfect for salads and save on time spent preparing the meal.

Be open to new foods.

Take a sense of adventure and curiosity with you to the market. Ask about foods you are unfamiliar with and consider buying at least one new thing each week. Tasting new fruits and vegetables broadens your knowledge of healthy foods and will keep your eating plan from becoming boring.

Carry small bills.

Unless you buy all your produce from one vendor, you will be spending a few dollars here and a few dollars there at the market. Make it easy on yourself and on sellers by carrying small bills. This is especially important if you shop first thing in the morning before vendors have made sales that bring in smaller change.

Bring the right bags.

A few purchases at the market and your hands will be full. Choose bags that will allow you to easily carry produce while you continue to shop. Consider a backpack for heavier items like root vegetables. Place other vegetables in bags that can be carried on your shoulders. Bring flat-bottomed, sturdy bags for delicate foods like eggs and berries. If the weight of your purchases is a concern, consider a small rolling cart to make your shopping experience more pleasant.

5 Things That Can Disrupt Your Sleep

Things That Can Disrupt Your Sleep

Researchers are increasingly recognizing the importance of a good night’s sleep in helping us achieve our overall fitness and wellness goals. Watch out for these 5 things that can keep you from getting a restful night of sleep.

Bright Lights

Exposure to bright light during the hours before bedtime can disrupt your sleep. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, bright light in the late evenings influences your internal clock, which can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Whether it’s a brightly lit room, a computer screen, or the television, these things can affect your sleep quality long after you turn them off. Create a nightly ritual that gets you away from bright lights and promotes relaxation to prepare you for a good night’s rest.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress or anxiety that results from daily concerns can have a big impact on your sleep patterns. When your mind races with worries, it is difficult to fall asleep and you experience sleep that is less deep. Find ways to relieve stress and anxiety to prepare for bedtime. Exercise regularly, jot down your thoughts in a journal, and meditate.

Medications and Supplements

If you take medications or supplements, you might be consuming substances that disrupt your sleep without knowing it. Some supplements contain the stimulants ginseng and guarana, which have an effect that is similar to caffeine. Some headache and cold medications also contain caffeine and other stimulants. Medications like steroids and beta-blockers can also keep you awake at night. Check ingredient labels closely and talk with your doctor if you suspect that a prescription medication is disrupting your sleep.

Overdoing It On Water

Staying hydrated is important, but too much water before bedtime can mean numerous bathroom breaks throughout the night. Drink your water earlier in the day, and limit your intake of high-water foods (like fruits) a few hours before bedtime.

Late Night Alcohol

You may feel like a glass of wine or beer makes you feel drowsy, helping you sleep better. It’s true that alcoholic drinks may make you drowsy enough to fall asleep quickly, but once your blood alcohol level drops 2 to 3 hours later, you are likely to wake up. This prevents you from falling into the deep sleep that helps you wake up feeling rested.

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