July’s Tiny Change: Creative Hydration

This post is part of Kale & Chocolate’s #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one super small, super doable change…over a year, it really adds up! You can read about it here and share your progress on instagram – tag @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley with the hashtag #12tinychanges for a chance to win some cool prizes!

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: we should all be drinking more water. And yet here we are – many of us walking around in a state of low-grade, chronic dehydration.

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How do you know if you’re dehydrated? Perhaps you’re feeling a bit unfocused or sluggish, maybe you feel hungry all the time, or your skin isn’t looking its best. It’s entirely possible that you aren’t actually hungry, or unfocused, or having skin problems; chances are, you’re thirsty!

Our bodies are 65% water, and our brains are 73% water. No wonder we feel better when we stay hydrated! Yet it’s easy to forget to drink in the midst of our busy and active lives. This month, we’re going to fill up our cups and keep our bodies happy with more water and better hydration. If you’re not exactly keen on chugging eight glasses of lukewarm tap water every day, read on!

Make it fun (and delicious!)
Not everyone loves plain old water. If you aren’t a fan, don’t worry – there are many other ways to stay hydrated! Toss together a pitcher of spa waters (they’re so easy and colorful!) or load up the freezer with fruity ice cubes and add them to your water or herbal iced tea. Save your leftover smoothies, filling up popsicle molds, and create beautiful (and hydrating) smoothie pops!

Drink easy.
If you spend most of your time in your office, get a pretty glass that you can keep on your desk. If you’re always in the car, find a reusable water bottle and don’t leave the house without it!

Drink a superfood snack
Chia seeds are a miracle food, especially when it comes to keeping us hydrated. These teeny, tiny seeds are hydrophilic, which means that they can absorb approximately 10 to 12 times their weight in water. This powerhouse superfood can also prolong hydration and retain electrolytes in body fluids, protecting against dehydration.

Incorporating chia seeds into your diet is incredibly easy: simply stir a heaping tablespoon to your morning juice or smoothie, and you’re set! For a real treat, try peppermint mocha chia pudding or have a super yummy energy bite!

Drink your eats (no, really!)
Hydration comes in many forms, not just from water! All raw fruits and vegetables contain water, particularly cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, celery, and radishes. Try this watermelon cucumber cooler on for size!

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Drink your potassium
Why do we need electrolytes, including potassium, to stay hydrated? Our muscles use them with water to make sure that the electrical charges in our bodies work properly. Potassium balances the fluids and electrolytes in our bodies. All this is to say: eat plenty of bananas and drink some coconut water. These two foods are inexpensive, widely available, and they’ll help you maintain the proper nutrients after a workout or on a hot summer day.

See? Hydration can be fun and delicious! And once we fill up with the proper amount of fluid, our minds and bodies are so much more effective. We think better, look better, and feel better.

One Healthy Breakdown: create and hydrate!

June’s Tiny Change: Slow Down

This post is part of Kale & Chocolate’s #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one super small, super doable change…over a year, it really adds up! You can read about it here and share your progress on instagram – tag @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley with the hashtag #12tinychanges for a chance to win some cool prizes!

When was the last time you did…nothing? Can you remember meandering around town without an agenda? Or taking the dog for a walk just because the sun’s out? Or actually stopping to smell the flowers? Really stopping, breathing, sniffing, inhaling the aroma without a care in the world, somewhere to be, a to-do list to check-off, or a photo to post online?

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Doing nothing can be surprisingly difficult…yet incredibly rewarding! So many of us hide in our “busy.” As a society, we love getting as much done in a day as possible. We feel accomplished and clever when we manage to eat our lunch while replying to emails. The reality is that we’ve found ways to multitask just about every moment of every day…which means we’re missing half of this thing called life! Being “busy,” “plugged in,” and “on” isn’t actually healthy, or sustainable. It’s not good for our bodies, our minds, or our relationships. So, let’s change that!

This is usually the part of the #12tinychanges post where we assure you that this tiny change is really easy and totally doable. And while slowing down is doable, (and important!) it will require more from you than some of our past challenges, such as starting the day in a powerful way, getting more sleep, or eating more color. Slowing down requires you to really commit (mentally and emotionally) to not committing. Although it might feel counter-intuitive to “make time” for down time, it’s just as valuable as those bustling, busy hours (maybe even more!)

slowReady to slow down a bit? Here are five ways that you can ease the pace of your life just a little:

  1. Say no.

It’s hard to slow down if our calendars are filled with obligations and meetings, but when we say “no” to things that don’t excite us, we get to say “yes” to ourselves and to better self-care.

This month, let’s (politely) turn down requests or obligations that just don’t feel right. You know when our bodies tell us “no,” but we say “yes” anyway? Listen to your intuition next time! Can you coordinate this or plan that or be here or meet there or brainstorm for…? No. No. and No.

2. Schedule unstructured time into your calendar.

Yes, really. Open your calendar right now, look at today, find a 20-minute window and schedule time to do nothing. When that calendar notification pops up, treat it the same way you’d treat a meeting: step away from your desk and go do nothing.

Cuddle your pet. Lay in your backyard and stare at the sky. Take an aimless walk through the neighborhood. Make yourself a matcha latte and savor it outside. Page through family photos. Meditate. Whatever you do, resist the urge to turn this unstructured time into cleaning, working, stressing, or doing of any kind. Just do nothing and enjoy!

3. Try doing something the “old fashioned” (or “less convenient”) way.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about accomplishing things without technology. What if you explored a new city using an actual, paper map and asking locals for their recommendations? What if you mixed your brownies with a big wooden spoon and a bit of elbow grease instead of relying on the food processor? What about spending the day at a pick-your-own farm or orchard, plucking fruits and vegetables, instead of grabbing them at the store? Or how about free-writing in an actual journal with an actual pen or pencil?

When we choose to put away our phones and use our minds and bodies (instead of smartphone apps or kitchen appliances), we reconnect with life and the world around us.

4. Do one thing at a time.

Maybe you usually listen to podcasts on your daily walk or catch up on email between activities? Whether it’s calling friends from the car when you have a long drive or using meal times to check in on social media, chances are, you’re doing more than one thing at once.

What if you did just one of those things with that time? The walk or the podcast, the email or the soccer game, the meal or Instagram? We’re so used to multitasking, but it’s not always as effective as devoting your time and energy to just one task at a time. In fact, it’s been proven that multitasking results in lower quality work, and it takes us longer to complete a task when we spread our attention too thin.

5. Literally, physically slow down.

Ever noticed yourself pacing around, talking too fast, speeding, or breathing quickly for no reason other than stress, busyness, and habit?

Often, we can change the way we feel emotionally by changing the way we feel physically. We can often calm our minds by taking deep breaths, releasing our shoulders, and choosing to speak, move, drive, and act with intent. Next time you feel stressed, check in with your body and attempt to literally slow everything down. You’ll instantly feel better!

Slowing down can be tricky. It’s easy to fill our schedules or fall into the pattern of multitasking. But when you learn to slow down with purpose, you regain control of every aspect of your life. Remember, a slower life is a healthier, more centered, present, and efficient life. Your hurried body and mind will thank you. Let’s put the brakes on our hurried lives and sloooooow down!

One Healthy Breakdown: here’s to slowing down and feeling up!

May’s Tiny Change: Sit Down to Eat

This post is part of Kale & Chocolate’s #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one super small, super doable change – over a year, it really adds up! You can read about it here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges for a chance to win some cool prizes! This is a nutritionist-approved change for SO many reasons!

If you’ve tried one of the #12tinychanges already, you know that each change is easy and doable. May’s tiny change is as simple as taking a seat! Here’s why…

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We’re simply going to sit down to eat, as often as possible. Why? It’s really, really important!

We’re not aiming for a tablecloth and two different types of forks, no need for the fancy China.
We’re not trying to make every meal a three-course marathon.
We’re not even shooting for a 100% success rate.

We’re just trying to make rushed, mindless eating the exception instead of the rule.

Who among us hasn’t been there – eating over the sink, picking the kids’ leftovers off their plates, standing in front of the fridge while scrolling through Instagram? (hand raised!) It happens…but it’s really not so good for any of us.

If you need more convincing, here are my top reasons why we should all eat sitting down:

Sitting = Knowing

When we eat on the go, we often eat fast, neglect to chew, and don’t even realize what is happening. Oftentimes, when we indulge in mindless snacking and full meals, we eat more than we need to, faster than we should, and don’t really enjoy it.

Stop Moving, Stop Stress

Shoving food into our mouths isn’t exactly relaxing. Trying to eat while navigating rush hour traffic is not calming (or satisfying!) Eating while we multitask can actually be quite stressful, and stressful situations can lead to the release of cortisol. Excess cortisol can lower metabolism, decrease immunity, and cause gastrointestinal problems. We can avoid all that if we just spend a few extra minutes eating veggie soup at a table instead of drinking it in a mug in the car!

Connecting > Consuming

Dozens of hours go into growing, harvesting, transporting, and preparing the food we eat. Water, sunshine, fossil fuels, and elbow grease make it possible. You put time and effort into preparing each dish, so why rush through the best part: eating it?

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Something that really helps to slow down and connect: Take five deep breaths before eating. It centers me, clears my mind, and turns my attention to the delicious meal in front of me.

Meals Create Community

Of course, we can’t eat every meal surrounded by friends and family, but sharing food is one of the best ways to connect and bond with others. Eating together is an opportunity to decompress and catch up on our lives. We tell stories, laugh, support each other, and make new memories.

When we cook together or prepare family recipes, we reconnect with our past and our heritage. Mom’s famous TLC Cookies don’t have the same calming, healing properties if we shove them down while standing over the counter as if we share the experience, sitting and tuned in.

So how do we find the time to eat sitting down?

Often, it’s as simple as making the commitment and realizing that, yes, we do have the few extra minutes to sit down if we make it a priority. Think of all the energy that goes into cooking food. We want to appreciate our efforts and not just shove it into our mouths without tasting it!

Let’s be honest about another mealtime distraction: messing around on social media or flipping through TV channels! If we can scroll through Instagram, we can sit down and eat that blueberry bliss smoothie bowl or quinoa & black bean salad.

If you really do need a little extra time in your jam-packed day, what if you set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier? Or do some meal prep on Sundays? With a little bit of foresight, sitting down to eat is possible and rewarding!

One Healthy Breakdown: Sit. Breathe. Eat. Enjoy. It’s a simple change with big payoff.

 

April’s Tiny Change: Eat More Color

This month, our #tinychange is to add more color to our plates. There are lots of reasons to load up on deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables, but for me, one the best reason is that it makes me happy! We feel invigorated and energized just looking at brightly colored meals (not to mention all the health benefits our bodies get from eating them!)

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Consider this the food version of tucking away your black winter sweaters and dull wool coats and pulling out your bright, colorful sundresses and fun tops: we all look better and shine brighter with a pop of color, even our meals. Here are my five favorite reasons to add more color to your plate:

1. Count colors!
Counting carbs, weighing food, and tracking calories can be effective for some, but they’re surefire ways to suck the joy and fun out of eating. The act of measuring and counting also reinforces the beliefs that healthy living is hard, time consuming, and unenjoyable. Not true!

Healthy foods are colorful foods. Think about it: Black wild rice and brown rice are healthier than white rice; orange sweet potatoes are filled with more phytonutrients than white potatoes; dark green spinach is better for us than light iceberg lettuce; freshly spiralized green zucchini noodles are more nutritious than white noodles. When you choose your foods based on color, making healthy choices is as easy (and fun!) as stocking your fridge with the vibrant colors of the rainbow.

2. Color Crowds Out Clutter
Balance over (hence the name Kale & Chocolate!) but the reality is: we have limited space on our plates and in our stomachs. When we add more color to our meals, there is less room for the not-so-healthy colorless clutter.

Rather than telling yourself that you can never eat pasta again, what if you made yourself a big green salad and tossed your pasta with colorful grilled vegetables? You’d need a lot less pasta to feel satisfied, your plate would be filled with nutritious, colorful foods…and you’d still get to eat the pasta that you love! It’s not about taking away food, it’s about adding color!

Swap your plain store-bought hummus (most likely chemical ridden) for this pretty Beet & Basil Hummus with a rainbow of chopped veggies!

3. More Color = More Nutrients
I’m fascinated by the science of healthy eating; it’s one of the reasons that I studied plant-based nutrition. When we eat colorful foods, we consume more micronutrients (the vitamins and minerals that are vital to development, disease prevention, and well-being).

If you want to make sure you’re getting sufficient nutrients, but you’re not particularly interested in reading labels or researching which foods are high in which vitamins and minerals, simply add a variety of colorful produce to your plate. When you eat all the hues of the rainbow, you’re naturally eating a micronutrient-rich diet. It’s that easy!

Swap bland protein shakes for a beautiful vibrant smoothie bowl with fun toppings.

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4. Food Love is Self-Love
Think about plain old beige oatmeal versus gorgeous, colorful, creative, and nutrient-dense carrot cake oatmeal. Which meal has more love? Like the vibrant hues of spring, color brings warmth and comfort to your plate. Show yourself love by preparing beautiful, colorful meals.

Swap a simple salad for a Super Summer Salad for more colors, flavors, and nutrients!

5. No Season is More Colorful than Spring
As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, more and more amazing foods appear at the farmers’ market: spears of tender asparagus, creamy avocados, red beets, green broccoli, and gorgeous strawberries are coming into season right now. There is no better, easier, more delicious, and more affordable time to add color to your meals!

*This post is part of Kale and Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge, implementing one monthly small, super doable change-over a year it really adds up! Read about all changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges tagging @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley! Yes, there are prizes involved!

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One Healthy Breakdown: Here’s to eating the colors of the rainbow and a bright, vibrant spring!

March’s Tiny Change: Notice Your Subconscious Thoughts About Food

*This post is part of Kale and Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one small, super doable change-over a year it really adds up! Read about all changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges. (Did I mention that there are lots of theme-related GIVEAWAYS each month?! Read on!)

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For the last six months, we’ve been making teeny, tiny, totally doable changes in the direction of creating and sustaining healthier lives. So far, we’ve talked about how we fuel our bodies (eating breakfast every day, trying plant-based foods, cooking at home, and moving and resting our bodies.) But a perfectly fueled, well-rested body won’t do us any good if it’s home to a negative, pessimistic, self-critical mind.

Have you ever found yourself having unkind thoughts like these?

“I can’t believe I ate all that pasta. Gross. I’m so weak.”

“How do I keep screwing this up? I told myself I wasn’t going to overeat and here I am, stuffed, unhappy, and guilty. I should be better than this.”

“I know that dairy upsets my stomach, but I just ate half a pint of ice cream. I’m so bad.”

I recognize them myself because this is something that I struggled with for ages. If I ate too much, I’d say mean things to myself. If I didn’t eat enough vegetables, ate mindlessly, or if told myself that I wasn’t going to finish the rest of the hummus and then when I did—I’d berate myself.

This food-related stress and anxiety isn’t just emotionally unhealthy: it’s physically unhealthy. Marc David, my mentor and founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, explains that our thoughts quite literally affect how our bodies function. Guilt and other negative, stress-related emotions trigger the release of cortisol, which can cause us to store more calories as body fat.

Thinking negative, stress-inducing thoughts after a meal impacts our digestion and nutrient assimilation and removes any pleasure we might have experienced while eating the food. To put it simply: the thoughts we think about the food we eat instantly become the reality in our bodies via the central nervous system.

By now, we’ve heard “you are what you eat,” but you are also what you think! This month, let’s commit to stopping unkind thoughts before they even start. We can rewire our mind to be more positive. Here are three steps to help you release negative food and body chatter, once and for all:

1. Take note of when and how you say these things to yourself.
For many of us, these unkind thoughts are mental background noise. We’ve heard them so many times, playing on repeat in our heads, that we don’t even notice them anymore. Whether we are aware of them or not, they affect our self-esteem, our choices, and the chemicals in our bodies. Noticing these thoughts is the first step to healing our relationships with food and our bodies.

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2. Speak to yourself the way you’d speak to a young child or a dear friend.
We would never, ever tell a friend that she was “weak” for having a second serving of brownies, but for years I’d say things like this—and worse!—to myself. When I finally realized that my negative self-talk was a problem, I struggled to find positive, supportive things to say to myself. If you’re in the same boat, talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a dear friend or a young child.

“You’re doing your best.”

“You made the most of a tough situation.”

“You’re doing a great job—keep it up!”

“I’m proud of you.”

When we give ourselves the same amount of love and attention that we give other people, our internal dialogue begins to shift. This can feel a little awkward at first, but keep the conversation going! Training a new behavior takes time, and once it’s ingrained, you’ll have swapped a harmful, unhealthy, and counter-productive habit for a positive, uplifting, healthy one. Using kind, supportive language in your conversations with yourself will help ease the food stress—and more!

3. Remember that you are the creator of your thoughts, so you can change them.
When we tune into our inner dialogue, it’s easy to feel out of control. It can seem as though we’re being forced to listen to a radio station where a mean (or even spiteful!) DJ isn’t taking requests.

But it’s important to remember that our thoughts—both good and bad—originate from us. We are the creators of our thoughts, so we are capable of changing them. I can say to myself, “That’s how I was for the last XX years, but I don’t want to be like that any more. This changes now.”

Your mind is a one-person radio station—and you are the only one who gets to choose the playlist. Believe it or not, it’s all up to you! You can even try this trick for re-routing your internal monologue: The next time you start to hear the same unkind chatter that plays on repeat, I want you to actually think (or say!) the words: “Stop. Change the station.”

Imagine reaching out toward the knob on your car radio and turning the dial. Or imagine pulling the headphones out of your iPhone and being greeted with glorious (and peaceful!) silence. Try it. You won’t believe how effective this can be!

Changing the way you think is a journey that requires a lot of focus and effort. Be gentle with yourself during this process and try not to get down on yourself when and if you have those negative thoughts again. They’re bound to resurface occasionally. Awareness is the first step here!

To help you have kinder & more loving thoughts, I’ve teamed up with some incredible partners to give you awesome and supportive tools for this month’s challenge. Simply join the conversation #12tinychanges on instragam and tag @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley.

One Healthy Breakdown: What you think is just as important as what you eat. And the only person who can change your mind is YOU.

12 Tiny Changes to Make the Year Amazing

*When Elise Museles of Kale & Chocolate shared her idea for #12tinychanges, I hopped on board without hesitation and I think that you will as well! After all, September is the perfect time to make healthy changes, we might as well make changes that stick! So, join us in making the next 12 months amazing, one tiny change at a time! Elise explains exactly how below:

September always feels like the beginning of a new year, doesn’t it? There’s an energy in the air as the kids head back to school and we adults buckle down at work. Just like the new year, many of us view September as an opportunity to make big changes: more exercise! Fewer refined carbs! More water! No TV! More salad! Home-cooked family dinners every night!

768px-EenbruinigherfstbladAnd we might just try to implement all of those changes at once, going from one to 60 in two days. Not surprisingly, this rarely works. We burn out, pull a muscle, and unhappily binge eat over the sink (we’ve all been there.) Our goals to eat healthy, exercise often, and replace TV with journal writing are strong on day 1…and gone by Friday…oops!

Has this ever happened to you? How many times have you broken promises to yourself? This time, it’s going to stick. This time, it’s going to be different. I know because I’ve been there. The only solution that I’ve found is to make teeny, tiny, sometimes even laughably small changes over the course of a long period of time. Baby steps, indeed.

Instead of “I’m quitting dairy tomorrow” I said, “I’m going to put almond milk in my coffee every morning for the next month.” Instead of “from now on, I’m drinking eight glasses of water every single day,” how about “I’m going to drink a glass of water before each meal for the next month.”

12tinychangesBy the time a month had passed, I was on my way to developing a new healthy (and permanent) habit. By the time an entire year had passed, I had over a dozen new habits! I slept better, ate cleaner, moved more, and was kinder to myself. I made all of these changes in a sane, sustainable way…and those good habits have stuck around. It’s not about the changes we want to make, it’s about the changes we actually commit to and turn into habits.

So I invite you to take advantage of September’s bustling new energy and join me in the 12 Tiny Changes Challenge, by committing to 12 small and doable changes to try—one per month, over the course of the next year. Grab yourself a cup of matcha tea and nestle in. We’ve got a fun year ahead. Are you ready? Let’s go, why wait?!

September: This month, I’ll devote a few hours to meal prep every week.

Your mom wasn’t kidding when she said that if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. It’s so much easier to eat healthy all week when your pantry, fridge, and freezer are properly stocked and prepared! This month, spend a few hours every Sunday (or Friday or Monday – you choose) prepping some of your meals & snacks, shopping for fresh, in-season produce, chopping, slicing, and peeling. You don’t need to do it all at once, but with the new fall routine settling in after summer’s carefree days, it’s an opportune time to create a little structure with your meal planning. Learn how to set yourself up for success here. Be sure to follow @kaleandchocolate on Instagram, (and @hamptonskiley) post your meal prep pics, and join in by using #12tinychanges hashtag. Last but not least, there will be prizes!

One Healthy Breakdown: get prepping and posting, change(s) is just around the corner!