A Good Night’s Sleep

A Good Night’s Sleep

Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.

As I’ve gotten older getting good rest has become harder, I’m not sure exactly why.

But getting a good night’s rest has many benefits.

The most obvious one, of course, is that you feel less tired the next day. Sleeping well helps you have the energy to tackle all the tasks you have for the next day.

Your mind is sharper. When I get good rest I can think more clearly and I don’t have such a hard time remembering small details or facts that I need to recall.

I eat less when I have a good night’s sleep also. This is probably due to the fact that when you are not sleep deprived your body’s calorie burning and calorie measuring machine is working at optimum levels.

Problems and decisions that seemed so large the evening before usually become much more manageable after a good night’s sleep. This is probably why people say to take some time and “sleep on it.”

So how you get a good night’s rest?

I first thought about when it was in my life I had the best sleep and I realized it was when I was a kid.

I started constructing the steps to getting a good night’s sleep like I did back then and it really helped me. Here is what I do:

1. I go to sleep at the same time every night. I know it may sound boring and unimaginative but the body does get used to being on a routine. It is the signal that tells the brain that the day has ended and that now it must rest.

2. I wash my face and brush my teeth. Creating a little cleansing ritual–whatever that may be–begins the process of self care that tells your body to begin relaxing.

3. I kiss someone goodnight.  I know it sounds silly to make this a step–but for me it really works! As a kid I always kissed my parents before I went to bed. Now as an adult I always kiss my husband goodnight.

If you don’t have a husband or wife–kiss the dog goodnight or get a pet rock, whatever works for you. But it is important to know that there is love in the world and in your life and that tomorrow is filled with promise. This will help you sleep.

4. Say your prayers.  Before I nod off I always thank God for the day that just passed, for the health of my family, our safety and any other things that happened that day.  I also ask for continued blessings, help, patience, ideas, strength, understanding, compassion etc. that I may need or want for the next day. Amen.

At this point, I have set myself up for a good night’s rest and most of the time it works wonders to help me relax and let go of the stresses and pressures of living and it helps remind me not to take things–and myself–so seriously.

However, if I do wake up–or still have trouble going to sleep–after these steps, I just start to count.  I used to count sheep–literally, I would imagine sheep jumping over a small fence and I would count them–but now I just count until I fall asleep. I have never gotten past 200.

Setting yourself up to have a good night’s rest will give you far better chances that you will have a good night’s sleep and you will be ready to tackle another day!

What keeps you up at night? Does having a good night’s sleep help you have a good day? Share your thoughts in the comments below! And have a good day!

The Science Behind Health

The Science Behind Health

I am a strong advocate for eating healthy, for exercise to stay flexible and active and for creating a life that is enjoyable.

There are many ways to go about this especially if we take advantage of the technology and science that is available to us.

If you think about it our health over the last 100 years has improved immensely. It wasn’t that long ago that we came up with antibiotics, blood transfusion and organ transplants.

The world of medicine has grown quickly and we have reaped the benefits of it. People live longer fuller lives than ever before because of the science.

We know more about the structures and functions of the body, and how movements or every kind and help us or hurt us because of the science.

Sciences of all kinds have helped us have better everything from food production and cultivation to prosthetics to medications and procedures to help us live better and feel better.

But you would think that with all these advances we would be farther along the health spectrum than we actually are because along with all the progress always comes some setbacks, you know: people.

It seems to me that most people have embraced the advantages of the sciences to create the monster instead of embracing it to make us stronger, better and healthier. Sorry Dr. Frankenstein, your creation is not working out well.

Even worse, we are now stopping to take notice of the monster we have created and are blaming the science!  

We want to turn back the clock and go back to a “simpler and better time”–where we struggled to have enough food to feed a nation, where we had to walk everywhere, where life was “healthier”.

Well…we can’t go back. And I don’t think we should.

I like the fact that I can have a protein shake in the morning and that it already has all the vitamins and nutrients that my body needs for the next few hours to do its job. Thank you science!

I like that the meat at the market already comes cut, ground and sometimes even tenderized for me with no bacteria, and other problems like rot, thanks to the science.  I like that I can get eggs from a carton and not a coop in a backyard–again science.

I like that walking is a sport I can choose to do on an indoor track and that I can hop in my car to go buy the aforementioned meat and eggs.

I like that we are still learning the best ways to get out nutrients and medications needed to live a full active life.

Our health in this nation has fallen apart–not because of the science–but because of the choices we have made. Just because hot spicy lemon lime extra crunchy cheetos were invented does not mean we should eat them.

I mean the science proves that they are NOT GOOD FOR US…yet day after day we buy them off the shelves and indulge and feed them to our kids.

And while all the time I see people taking on the farmer, the scientists, the pharmaceutical companies and the government over our health I don’t see anyone upset at the people who are choosing to ruin their health by making horrible choices.

I also don’t see anyone complaining or attacking the people who invented the sugary soft, crunchy, spicy invented shaped stuff we eat.

For me, I choose the science.  I choose to learn all I can about the things that affect my life and to make the best choices I can about my health that I can.

I don’t pretend to be a scientist myself, thank goodness that is not my job. But I also don’t pretend to just go with whatever is available in the marketplace and then complain and lament when my health is not where I want it to be.

We cannot have it both ways–we cannot go back in time and pretend all our advances do not exist. We also cannot be healthy without the science.

What we can do is learn all we can, investigate what is best for us that we are willing to live with, ask questions and enjoy our lives. Use the science to our advantage…it is a very powerful thing!

How do you enjoy the benefits of the science behind our health in your life. Send me a comment or write me an email at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com!

Carbs to the Rescue

Carbs to the Rescue

Ah Carbs!  The pleasure trigger of the taste buds and the bain of all the empty calories we consume.

Carbohydrates get a bad reputation as being the worst thing to enter our dietary lives–EVER!

But as with most things the majority of people are getting this wrong. This is mostly because they are not doing the research themselves because they are relying on all the sound bytes they hear…

And while I am just another sound byte–I have at least done my homework.

Carbohydrates are a necessary part of our nutritional plan. It is where we get our energy so we can, you know, do stuff.

If we were not getting energy from our food we would feel deflated and tired–all the time–and you would quite literally be unable to function.

If you are trying to lose weight many diets encourage you to cut out carbohydrates–completely.  

Many people grab onto that advice and cut out all carbs!  This does lead to weight loss but very often that weight loss is too much, too fast, can be very dangerous and is not sustainable.

Those diets fail–or I should say the people on those diets fail to reach their goals because they cannot follow the program long term as a lifestyle…I’ll discuss that next time.

Back to carbohydrates–we cannot survive without carbohydrates in our system everyday and this is why:

Carbs come in 3 main categories:

  1. Sugars or simple sugars like glucose, fructose etc. that are basically already broken down for us. These go into our system, give us a little zip of energy and then fizzle out quickly. Because they are simple it takes a lot of them to make us feel “full” or “satisfied” so we eat a lot of them.
  2. Starches are more complex sugars that need to be broken down by our digestive system to create the glucose our bodies need for energy.  So these carbohydrates take longer to break down and give us a slow burn of energy.
  3. Fiber.  Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by the body but is needed to aid digestion and to give us a happy gut and happy bathroom experiences. This, as you know, is super important!

When we eat too many carbs, the body can store some of them for future energy and turns them into fat. Not good.

In a nutshell–we need to eat carbohydrates that are complex and whole to provide us with that slow burn and with fiber. Processed foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in everything else are just empty calories that do not serve us!

The amount of carbohydrates that we need depends on the number of calories you need per day to reach your nutritional goals. I discuss that in a previous post called The Big Mac.

The best carbohydrates are found in vegetables, whole fruits, potatoes, legumes and whole grains. It is important though to remember to watch the serving sizes and the preparation of these foods so that we don’t change a good carbohydrate into a fattening dish.

We also don’t want to eat so much of a good thing that we turn it into a bad thing by overloading our bodies with too much sugar–even from whole foods–that is needed in a day.

For people who are currently battling obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease a low carb diet can be life changing. And I think–especially given our current society–that this is important to mention.

And while a low carb diet may come to your rescue–we need to include the proper water intake, exercise and a host of other changes to our habits as a permanent life change for our rescue to be sustainable.

Remember that carbohydrates did not cause our obesity and a host of other health problems.  Our ancestors ate all kinds of carbs and were healthy–and thin!

Our ancestors, though, ate whole foods–not processed foods!  And there is a way to include whole foods and the science of convenience in processed foods to help us achieve both nutritional values and health objectives!!

While I am still digging for the answers–remember to take everything you know and understand to be true with a grain of salt. Do some discovering of yourself and what works best for your body–because no two bodies are alike!

Reach out with a comment or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!

Slowing Down in the Fast Lane

Slowing Down in the Fast Lane

We do a fair amount of highway driving to visit family and the two birdies that have left the nest.  My husband does most of the driving but from time to time I take the wheel.

I have to say my husband is a much better driver than I am.  I often say that I do many things well–but driving is not one of them!

Most of the time my husband drives in the fast lane, not because he is driving fast–to my frustration he usually drives the speed limit–and eventually (a lot) he will come up to another driver that is also going the speed limit.  And there we sit for a mile or two neither of us going anywhere because neither will move over to the right lane and pass or be passed.

In the same situation I simply go around the individual on either right or left and keep going on my merry–albeit speedier–way.

Why am I always in a hurry to get to my destination when I enjoy the drive so much?  I have no idea.

I am learning to question these things that I do to myself that rob my joy.  I mean I really enjoy driving the highways–taking in the scenery, and relaxing in the rhythm of the car. It gives me much needed and much loved “think time”.

My best guess is that I do everything (driving included) fast so I can do more stuff. So I can accomplish more tasks each day and be the hero.

But the hero of what?  The hero of having all the dishes done, the laundry folded and the meals for the week planned?  All necessary things for sure but I don’t think they give you a cape for that! Hero of Zero!

So at this point in my life I am learning–many times the hard way–to slow down and do the things that are important.  To slow down and think of the most efficient way to do things. To slow down and let others do some of the stuff.

I am finding that slowing down has some very positive advantages:

You will actually do less work. Have you ever noticed that the more you do quickly and efficiently the more work you are given or expected to do? Employers do this to you and so do family and friends.

Until the moment or the day you stop–don’t worry they won’t be too disappointed–they’ll find someone else that is in a rush and will do it.

Once you have slowed down and taken care of your priorities–the remaining tasks just won’t seem so important. And because you are doing less work…

You will feel more rested. Doing things slower means you can do things with more attention.  Sometimes you will surprise yourself that you are actually enjoying the task at hand and you will be more clear minded about the things you actually want to work on.

This will make you feel energized and valued by the most important person in this whole equation–You!  You will be able to rest and not feel drained all the time! And when you are rested and doing things to your best potential…

You will be able to concentrate your talents.  What things do you enjoy that use your talents and your gifts. How can you use those talents to really serve others in a way that also makes you happy?

Finding these answers are very important to each of our lives, it will help us find the purpose we are here to fulfill and that on the flip side will help us feel fulfilled. That’s a win in my book! (Even without the cape!)

So as we are driving down the highway of our days–slow down, enjoy the “think time”. Take in the scenery–the destination will be there when you get there and it will be exactly where you were meant to go.

As we drive through our lives are you in the fast lane? Or have you learned, like I am learning to enjoy the slower lane? Do you feel that slowing down also means slowing down your progress?

Comment below and let me know how you feel about where you are right now in your life.  Whether you decide to slow it down or speed down the highway–always have fun!

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Solutions to Starting Healthy Eating Habits

Solutions to Starting Healthy Eating Habits

Everything we do effects us for the good or the bad. When it comes to our health many times we ignore or overlook these “effects” because they can be subtle.

After all, we don’t eat a fast food meal today and suddenly have clogged arteries and an extra pound around the middle…but over time and many fast food meals later–well you get the picture.

When we decide to change our habits the effects to our bodies will also be subtle and slow to show.

We should not expect to see solutions or magic immediately.  There is no magic shake, or pill or cleanse that will take the pounds off and make us look beach body ready.

Also, you cannot think of this change for your life as a one time diet or exercise routine until you are where you want. It will be an ongoing process–one that takes commitment.

That may sound hard, but it is really a beautiful thing to commit to oneself.

When we commit to change our habits and make this life change it is a sign of the self care and self love we all deserve.

And I do have some solutions that are not difficult and that everyone can do to get started, so let’s keep it simple:

  1. Eat the right foods in the right quantities
  2. Drink Water
  3. Move
  4. Get good sleep
  5. Repeat

Eat the right foods in the right quantities. What are the right foods? The closer to nature you can get the better.  Fruits and vegetables and salads should be a staple at every meal. If you eat meats–then try to get the best meat that is available to you.

The bigger part of the eating the right foods is to stay away as much as you can from processed foods.  That can be hard–especially after years and years of eating these things.

But it can be much easier–even if you cannot give up processed foods–if you watch the portion size.

The serving size of most foods are on the packages. Yes–the serving sizes seem very small when you start looking at them. But in reality they are just right. And your body will adjust very quickly!

So do you have to give up your favorite foods? Of course not! You just have to eat LESS of them.

Drink Water. Our bodies are made up of a lot of water and in order to function properly our cells need water. Simply said one of the easiest self care actions we can take for ourselves is to drink more water.

Move. In order to burn calories and keep our bodies in the best of shape we do have to move. You do not have to do a 4 hour work out each day. But you do need to get off the couch.  

If you don’t like to exercise–go for a walk. Anywhere. Get outside into the fresh air. Or add activities to your regular routine that can ramp up your movement. For example, folding clothes while standing up instead of sitting down will burn twice the calories. Activities such as gardening or cleaning the house also counts as movement–don’t underestimate yourself. Once you get your body moving it is easier to keep it moving.

Get good sleep.  Believe it or not if we are not sleeping well then our bodies are not performing at optimal levels. And it is causing our bodies to not burn calories the way it is meant to. Getting good sleep is essential to having good health.

Create a ritual and routine to getting to sleep at night. Turn off all the distracting images and sounds that keep our brain “awake” at least 30 minutes before you go to bed to help your body unwind.

Repeat.  When one day is done…start over the next day. Each day we complete these steps is one day closer to making it a habit. And as your body changes you will actually feel it. You will feel lighter, and less hungry, and better!.

What if you fall off the healthy wagon? Start fresh the next day. No need to give up or beat ourselves up for it. We are human and this is hard work. But we are worth it.

IF you have tried everything and it still does not work get someone to help you. There are doctors and nutritionists that can suggest different regimens for you and there are health coaches that can help you create the healthy habits you are looking for.

I enlisted the help of a health coach and it truly was a wonderful experience. Not only am I healthier but I have strengthened other parts of my life as well.  I believe in her work so much that I have gone back to school to become a health coach myself, so I can help people the way she helped me!

Creating healthy habits is a life change–not because it is difficult and challenging but because it will change your life for the better. There are many people around us that would discourage us from bettering ourselves–I’ll talk about them in my next post.

Remember whatever you choose to do–choose it for yourself and have fun with it!

Comment below:  What is the biggest hurdle holding you back from committing to this self-care?