Summer Intentions: An Update

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my summer intentions. You can read that post here. I always put my summer goals on paper so that I have a clear idea of what I want to focus on between June and early September.

In a nutshell, those goals were to: meditate daily, strength train weekly, update the blog more regularly, and stop being the “cruise director”.

So, how am I doing? I’m pleased to say I have meditated the last four days in a row. That’s pretty huge. I’ve noticed a difference, too. Instead of waking up and getting on Twitter (and then throwing my phone across the room in disgust at what I’m reading), I meditate. In fact, I have been waiting until later in the day to log on to Twitter and it’s helping my mood quite a bit. Secondly, I have really done a great job of resisting the urge to plan and coordinate constantly. It has actually freed up a lot of mental space and I am doing a lot more spontaneous things, which has been fun.

The two things I would like to improve upon are strength training more regularly and writing more than one blog post a week.  I would also like to add a weekly yoga session. Summer has just gotten started and I’m finding a rhythm, so I feel confident I will feel good about my implantation of my summer intentions when I reflect on them this September. I plan on checking in every few weeks to make sure I am following through.

Do you make any summer goals? If so, please share them with me in the comments!

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LIFE HACK: An App For People Who Have Trouble Staying Focused

forest

I have a problem. I try to do multiple things all at the same time which leaves me feeling agitated and depleted. Why sit and peacefully watch t.v. when I could also scroll through my emails on my laptop (is what my brain constantly tries to tell me)? What’s the problem with reading emails while watching t.v., or scrolling through your Instagram feed while walking the dog, or trying to reply to a text while also have a conversation? Well for one thing, when we multitask, nothing is ever done really well. It also leaves our brains feeling fried and for many of us we wind up feeling on-edge and irritable. I have also started to notice a link between how much time I spend mindlessly online and the amount of energy I have to do other tasks. Being online literally drains me.

According to this Time Magazine article, trying to multi-task, especially with electronic devices, can hamper our attentiveness, mindfulness, and ability to learn. In fact, higher amounts of technology use has been linked to mental health problems in adolescents. It’s no wonder, with kids constantly seeing images of “perfection” on their peers’ social media feeds. I have found that the more time I spend on social media (as a 43 year old), the more agitated and anxious I get as well. This article does a good job of explaining why that is. One positive of technology use in adolescents is that more frequent texting appears to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. perhaps because they are reaching out to real friends and connecting rather than perceiving that everyone else has perfect “Insta worthy” lives.  Read the article to find out more.

So, what am I doing about this problem? I found out about an app called Forest, and have been using it for a few days. So far it has really made a difference. You can plant virtual trees and set a time for how long you want to focus on a task without looking at your phone. When the time is up, your tree has grown. By planting trees and growing trees, you earn virtual currency to use towards buying and planing a REAL TREE through Trees For The Future. The app costs $1.99 for iPhone and it’s free for Android.

This might be the sort of thing where I use it for a relatively short amount of time to rewire my brain and seal in a new habit. I’m perfectly ok with spending $2.00 for that life hack!

P.S. I wrote this entire blog post without checking email, reading my texts, or inexplicably ending up shopping on Bananrepublic.com. WIN!

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Life Hack: The Daily Dozen App

Summer Intentions

Life Hack: The Daily Dozen App

I recently discovered an app I really think is great called The Daily Dozen. On it is a list of foods you should be eating every single day, with spaces for a checkmark next however many servings of that food you should be having. For instance, there’s three spaces next to beans, one space next to berries, and two spaces next to greens. You can check in to the app throughout the day to keep track of the “superfoods” you’re eating and over time, hopefully you’ll have trained yourself to put the healthiest foods first in your diet.

There’s a section for grains on there, and I think that’s important to note. A lot of people avoid grains these days because they believe they are inflammatory or cause weight gain. Here’s what I know about whole grains (I’m talking about things like brown rice, oats, and barley here, not Froot Loops with “whole grains”). Eating whole grains is associated with lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Read here  for more information on whole grains and heart disease. Read here for more on whole grains and blood pressure. And read here for more on whole grains and other foods that lower cholesterol. If you are trying to avoid grains in the short term, I support that. Sometimes avoiding a certain food for a month or so can help reduce inflammation and de-sensitize you to that particular food. Then you add the food back in in small amounts to ensure your sensitivity is gone. There are doctors like Dr. David Perlmutter (author of The Grain Brain) who have profited mightily by telling people all grains are bad for you, but I really don’t subscribe to that thinking at all. I *do* believe we Americans have too many grains in our diet, and that most of those grains are of low quality and low nutritional value (think a slice of white bread or a bowl of sugary cereal). However, whole grains have many proven health benefits.

Back to the app. What I love about this new tool is that it also includes things like spices, flaxseeds, and Vitamin D. These recommendations are all rooted in science and have been proven to be beneficial for one or more reasons.

Daily Dozen was created by Michael Gregor,  M.D., who is the founder of NutritionFacts.org and has a podcast called Nutrition Facts with Dr. Gregor.

I think it’s a great daily tool you can use as a fun challenge to clean up your eating habits and add some solid nutrition that will help reduce your risk of disease. Win/win!

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Why Would I Spend Money To Do A One Mile Race In The Cold?

Every May for the last three years I’ve paid $20 to enter a 1 mile sprint race in Minneapolis called the Medtronic 1 Mile put on by Twin Cities in Motion. Three out of the three years it’s been windy and cold. And yet I keep coming back each year. “But why” people ask me, “would you spend money to run one ridiculous mile?” I can understand their skepticism. There’s rush hour traffic to battle, anxiety about finding a parking spot, and standing out in the cold waiting for the race to begin. It’s at night, so I’m tired and  my legs aren’t exactly fresh.

But here’s the thing: each year I set a new goal for myself (sometimes it’s a PR and sometimes it’s to finish strong), and it’s a really fun way of pushing a different kind of exercise. Normally I don’t train for sprints. If I’m training for a run it’s usually a 5k or 10k, which is about pacing and tempo. With a 5k or longer race, you take the first mile to get into a rhythm and adjust your thoughts from “why did I do this” to “I’ve got this”. With a mile, it all has to gel very quickly and you can’t spend any time in that negative mental space. This year I failed to train much for the sprint and I spent the entire time cursing my jagged breath and my bad form. I also slowed down just before the finish. Why would I do that?! Next time I will make sure to go strong till the very end.

So will I be back next year? You betcha. It pushes me to use a completely different set of skills that I rarely put into action. Plus, it’s super fun to watch the professional runners crush a mile in 4:03. My phone died as I was recording the women, but here’s what it looks like when you’ve just run a mile in 4:03 (p.s. I look the same way after I run my mile. Professional athletes, they’re just like us!)

My friend Deb and I have been doing the race together the last two years, and while the first year she was super skeptical about it, as soon as she completed her mile she was hooked. She crushed her PR last night and got to ring the bell! Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer during her very first mammogram at age 40 and has been through so much over the past couple of years. She has used running as a tool to deal with all the challenges a cancer diagnoses comes with, and I really couldn’t be prouder of her grit and determination. Deb tells me “The one mile is a ton of fun. And while I’ll never be fast, it’s inspired me to be faster and has made me push myself a little harder in longer runs as well.”  Well, Deb, YOU inspire ME!

Deb ringing the PR bell
Deb ringing the PR Bell

This month, I am calling for you to come up with a challenge that gets you out of your comfort zone. Is it speaking in public? Or trying a new sport? Maybe it’s something as simple as trying to cook a new meal (here’s an easy one if you are new to cooking but want to nail it on the first try). Just pick one thing and give it a go. I want to hear from you: What did you choose? And how did it turn out for you?

Maybe Deb and I will see you next year in the Twin Cities for the 1 Mile!

MEL AND DEB MEDRONIC 1 MILE VERSION 2

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My Summer Fitness Plan

Run, jog, slog

Summer Intentions

Every time the seasons change, I use it as an opportunity to reevaluate my routines, habits and goals. I’m what I guess you could call a “serial improver”. For example, setting an intention to eat at least six servings a day of fruit and vegetables several years ago has stuck, and I’ve built on that goal to the point where now I’m regularly eating 9+ servings a day.

Some people are part of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” camp. I am squarely in the other camp. To me, it’s fun and exciting to think about new ways to do things, which is why I obsessively read health and wellness articles and studies. The idea that I can “hack” my health (whether it’s physical or mental) or find new ways to do things like make cooking for my family easier, gets me very excited.

So, I thought I would share what my goals and intentions are for this spring and summer. I would love to hear what yours are, so please make sure to leave a comment at the bottom!

  1. Meditate daily.  This is *always* on my list and I have yet to accomplish a consistent daily practice. And yet, meditating really does benefit me in many ways, such as reduced anxiety, more focus, and better sleep. I love the Headspace app and have been using it for years. With some meditations as short as two or three minutes, there’s really no excuse for not doing it daily.
  2. Blog more consistently. Someone just said to me recently “I really miss your weekly cocktail recipes!” And even though I see the metrics of how many people read my blog each day and I know that I have people logging on from all over the world to read Cultivate Wellness, sometimes I still find it hard to believe. That comment sparked my commitment to be more intentional about my posting schedule.
  3. Add strength training to my weekly routine. I hate it. Like, I really hate it. I have yet to find a way to include it in my workout schedule so that I will actually follow through on a long term basis. Have advice for me? Please share! It’s going on my list, as it always does, because I’m sure that one day I will find a way to do it. It’s very important for people over 40, especially women, to include strength training. Read here for more information on why. One possibility is this 9 Minute Strength Workout.
  4. Stop being the cruise director. This one goes against everything I am. I have been told by lots of friends that one of my strengths is bringing people together and planning new and fun things to do. If a reservation needs making, concert tickets need buying, or trip needs planning, I’m usually the one to step up. I truly do enjoy doing this, but sometimes it feels more like a job than a pleasure. So, I am intentionally going to take a step back from that for the next few months and see what happens. Maybe I’ll free up some energy to strength train 😉

I’m sure I will add more intentions to my list but this seems like a good start. Please comment below with your spring/summer intentions!

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Portobello “Burgers”

Last night was Sunday, which made it Crappy Dinner Party night. Haven’t read about our weekly CDP? I recommend doing that right away, and then laying plans for your very own regular Crappy Dinner ASAP.

It was my husband’s birthday this week, so we hosted. He wanted to grill burgers and dogs, which are super yummy and yes please to all of that. However, if you are trying to reduce your red meat consumption or are vegetarian or vegan, I find portobello burgers to be a really worthy substitution. (Recent studies seem to show a correlation between eating meat of any kind of your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Studies also show that eating meat raises your risk of cancer and heart disease. This is not to say you have to give up meat entirely, but rather substitute some of your meat choices for vegetarian choices instead. Click here for an explanation and some tips.) You still get the meaty texture when you bite down, and the mushrooms soak up any delicious marinades you throw their way. Top with sautéed onions, a slice of cheese, and pickles and I guarantee you will enjoy your experience!

Here’s the marinade I use to make my portobello burgers.

INGREDIENTS:

4 portobello mushroom caps

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil (avocado oil has a higher smoke point)

1 large garlic clove, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix all ingredients together and pour over the mushroom caps, turning every 15 minutes until time to cook, making sure to pour the mixture into the underside of the mushrooms before grilling. Throw on the grill and cook until desired doneness.

If you’d rather put them in the oven, preheat to 425°, place mushrooms stem side down in a baking dish, and roast for 18-20 minutes.

portobello grilled

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Your Immune System

allergy-cold-disease-flu-41284.jpeg

Flu season is rampant this year, with a strain that isn’t well matched to the vaccine (current estimates place it at about a 10-30% match). While getting the flu vaccine is at the top of my family’s to-do list every fall (here is a good overview on why we believe in the flu vaccine), there are other things we do to support our immune system, like eating healthy foods, getting exercise, and supplementing with Vitamin D. I also take a daily zinc supplement (read here about why zinc is important).

There can be many reasons for why our immune system isn’t functioning at optimal levels, including drinking too much alcohol, having high stress levels, and eating too many refined carbs/sugars. While getting sick from common viruses like colds and enterovirus (aka: stomach flu) is quite normal, if you find yourself getting sick often, it’s worth it to get checked out for underlying causes.

Even though I know all the things to do in order to keep my immune system in good shape, I still get sick a couple of times a year. We can’t always nip our stress in the bud as quickly as we would like, or it’s the holidays and we are partaking in more rich food and alcohol than we normally do (not to mention our exercise routines tend to go out the window in November and December). Keep this handy info page taped to your fridge or mirror to remind yourself of all the ways that you can naturally help your immune system be stronger.  And remember, this information should never take the place of a discussion with your doctor or trusted health professional, and never start a supplement without first talking to your medical professional.

immune system page 1

Immune system page 2