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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LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!

 

 

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

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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

Vitamin C Smoothie (Great For Your Immune System)

Vitamin C Smoothie (Immune system)

This week is bound to be super busy and possibly stressful, especially those of us who celebrate Thanksgiving. With increased levels of stress come increased rates of cold and flu. If you’re traveling by airplane, consider your risk even higher (one study published in the Wall Street Journal showed a 20% increased risk). And if you’re visiting family and there are many of you staying in the same house, usually someone ends up sharing germs, too. So how do we navigate the holiday season without succumbing to feeling miserable? One thing we can do is make sure we are feeding ourselves with nourishing and immune boosting foods. Foods high in Vitamin C pack an antioxidant punch, which helps lower your risk of getting sick. Vitamin C also helps regenerate other antioxidants in your body. Fiber is another important nutrient, as it helps lower inflammation. And yogurt, which is a probiotic rich food, helps keep our gut flora in check. Because about 80% of our immune system resides in our guts, we want to make sure it’s always balanced and healthy.

For the past week I’ve been having a green smoothie every day for breakfast. It starts my day off on the right foot and by the time I’m finished drinking it I’ve already had at least three servings of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables. This helps keep me healthy and sets me up for wanting to continue eating healthy throughout the day. Since I know I’ll be enjoying a lot of my favorite foods at Thanksgiving, this is a good way to ensure I’m getting proper nutrition leading up to the long weekend.

Try this Vitamin C smoothie and let me know what you think. Feel free to customize it for your own needs (swap out spinach for kale, for instance).

Enjoy!

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A Few Of My Favorite Things 2017

THANKSGIVING

A Few Of My Favorite Things 2017

these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things-2

The holidays are nearing and you might be wondering what to put on your wish list or what to buy for the people in your life. I’m no Oprah, but I do have some opinions on the things I love using in my daily life (hint: you won’t find any $600 coffee makers on my list.) Read on for some of the things I would rather not live without!

Sockwell compression socks. I’ve been doing a lot of running lately, training for my first 10k. If I run anything over 3 miles my legs ache and I have trouble falling asleep. I bought myself a pair of Sockwells and wore them after my last 4 mile run. No achey legs! $21.95 – $24.99.

How To Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food, 10th Anniversary Edition by Mark Bittman. I love Mark Bittman’s approachable style of explaining recipes and methods. In fact, I just made his whole roast chicken recipe last night for dinner. This is a great idea for the person who loves to cook, or who is striking out on their own and needs a good solid cookbook to help them learn how to cook. $23.49

Eos Ultra Moisturizing Shave Cream. The vanilla scent is my favorite, and I love how moisturizing it really is. $14/pack of two.

Aaptiv personal training app. I wrote about this last year, too. If it weren’t for this app, I would not be training for a 10k right now. Having a personal trainer in my ear (with dozens to choose from) keeps me motivated. I learn proper form and other essential information, and the music the workouts are set to is music you actually want to listen to! From cycling to yoga to running to elliptical and everything in between, you can’t go wrong with Aaptiv. I love it so much I actually became an ambassador. Try it for free by clicking the link above. $8.33-9.99/month depending on subscription plan.

Ugg Amie. I love the newer slimmer fit Uggs and I love that they  have a bit of a heel. I have had the same pair of Uggs for over 10 years now and still love them dearly. I felt like maybe I was allowed to buy a new pair with a more modern fit since I’ve worn my other ones nearly to death. So, I keep the old ones for walking the dog. Prices vary based on style and color.

Gut Shots by Farmhouse Culture. I always thought I was weird because I grew up drinking pickle juice out of a glass. I guess there are enough weird people out there that Farmhouse Culture created a healthy drink on the idea. I am a huge fan of the garlic dill pickle flavor with the smoked jalapeño coming in a close second. These probiotic “shots” are full of good stuff to make your belly happy. Around $4.99 at Whole Foods

Rosebud Salve by C.O. Bigelow. I’ve been using this lip balm for ages, and I have three or four scattered around the house and in my purse at any given moment. I love the old fashioned tin and that I can use it anywhere (lips, cuticles, dry spots). Around $8 on Amazon.

Hamilton Beach Set It And Forget It Slow Cooker. At this very moment, I have chicken stock bubbling on its 21st hour in this slow cooker (remember the whole chicken I baked last night? I threw the carcass and juices in the slow cooker with water and will use the stock to make chicken soup tonight). I use this slow cooker for making stocks, roasts, soups, whole chickens, etc etc etc. I know the Instant Pot is the kitchen appliance du jour, and it’s actually on my Christmas list this year, but I will always love my slow cooker. It’s programmable and I really like the thermometer feature as well. At around $49, this is a must-have for any kitchen in my very humble opinion.

Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino cherries. I’m not ashamed to admit I really love a cocktail cherry. Always have, always will. I found this brand at Whole Foods and have never gone back to the neon red cherries from my youth. Yes, they are more expensive. But they also contain no artificial flavors or dyes. I use them in my cocktails and in my holiday baking. Not only are they better for you, they taste amazing. About $14

What’s on your list of favorites? Leave your comments below! I always love trying new things.

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These are a few of my favorite things

*Clicking on the Amazon links above will take you to my affiliate site, where it’s possible I might make a penny or two.

Your Immune System — Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

We’re in it, people. It’s cold and flu season and everywhere you go someone has a cough, the sniffles, a sore throat, or worse. How do we keep ourselves healthy and energetic all season long? One approach is through our food choices. Excess sugar, processed carbs and too much alcohol will suppress our body’s ability to fight off infection (which is a shame because aren’t the holidays MOSTLY ABOUT SUGAR, CARBS AND COCKTAILS?!?!). I’m not advocating giving up your favorite holiday treats, because part of what keeps us healthy is not being stressed out. Also spending time enjoying ourselves with people we love is pretty high up on the list for immune-boosting activities, and if we are hyper focused on every little thing we put in our mouths, we will ruin it for ourselves and those around us.

However, what I would like to encourage is making the majority of your food choices healthy ones. So, when you are cooking/eating at home, which should be most of the time, make those meals impactful. Start every day with a healthy breakfast because it helps keep the rest of the day on track (click here, here, here or here for great breakfast choices). For lunch, choose something like a big salad with good quality proteins like chicken and chickpeas, and choose olive oil and vinegar dressing. Or, make a huge batch of soup on Sunday and eat it all week long. I love the hearty lentil soup I make all winter.

You want high quality protein, you want good sources of fiber and fat (the good kind, like olive oil, those found in nuts, coconut oil, and organic and grass fed meats). And pile on the vegetables and fruits. The more antioxidants you eat the better. They will reduce inflammation which will help fight off cold and flu bugs. They also contain natural antiviral and antibacterial agents.

Check out this recipe for Carrot Ginger Turmeric soup. Carrots are very high in vitamin A which is essential for a healthy immune system. Ginger and turmeric contain powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It’s warming and soothing for the coldest days and will keep you nourished.

Stay tuned for more immune boosting recipes and information!

*If you don’t like coconut oil or are allergic, feel free to sub with olive oil.

Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup (recipes for immune system).png