8 Ways to Build Strong Relationships

originalIt’s the day after Valentine’s Day. But shouldn’t every day be like Valentine’s Day? We should let our sweethearts know we love them on a daily basis.

What makes a love last life a lifetime? Unlike the fairy tale stories about true love, real-life love takes work. Just like you must maintain your house for it to last, or improve your skills at your job to evolve in your position, you need to continue to build and grow your relationship.

Here are 8 ways you can strengthen and nurture your relationship:

Put your love first
You and your partner are a team. Think of yourselves as the two musketeers. It’s all for one and one for all. Your relationship comes first. Even the little things matter. If you’re having a discussion and the phone rings, let it go and finish what you’re saying. If your spouse wants you to go with them to a company party and you don’t really want to, go anyway.

Learn to compromise
Strong relationships are built on give and take. It can’t be all one person’s way. Like I mentioned above, having a happy, healthy relationship may mean making compromises. No matter how much you love each other, you may not agree on everything. You can agree to disagree. And sometimes you just have to let things go – and so does your partner.

Respect each other
For a relationship to work, you have to be friends. To have an enduring, loving relationship, you must respect each other. It’s important to respect each other’s thoughts, feelings and opinions. Every person is unique. You need to embrace and appreciate that uniqueness. As long as you and your significant other feel safe with each other, you can talk about anything.

Be honest
You may feel like you should spare your partner’s feelings from time to time. You don’t have to be mean about it, but you should be honest. If I ask my husband if my butt looks big, he will tell me the truth. I have learned not to ask him some questions. But I know that he will always tell me the truth – even if I may not like it.

Trust unconditionally
Trust goes hand-in-hand with honesty and respect. If you know your partner will always be honest with you and that he or she respects you, then you know that trust will be there. You probably have friends who constantly question each other’s motives and actions. Without trust, you cannot build a strong, lasting relationship.

Really listen
Make it a point to focus intently and listen to what your partner is saying. Hear what the person is saying and not saying. Watch facial expressions and body postures. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to fix dinner, texting or watching TV and not truly pay attention to what your partner is saying. And listen without interrupting. Sometimes the other person just needs someone to hear them vent.

Be comfortable with yourself
You’ve probably heard the expression, “True love only exists by loving yourself first.” You need to be at peace with yourself to be able to open up to your partner. Once you own who you are, you can give and receive love from your significant other.

Let go of expectations
We grow up with fairy tale images of what love will be like. We think that when we find our true love it will be all magic and happy endings. While being in a loving relationship is one of the most rewarding things on this earth, it’s not always easy. It can be messy. And it takes patience and hard work.

So, make every day Valentine’s Day. Give your sweetie a hug and a kiss, and let them know how much you love them!

7 Tips to Restart Your Exercise Habit

ExerciseHabitBlogIf you’re like me, you were hung-ho to start a new exercise routine in the beginning of January. Then, February rolls around. It’s cold and gloomy outside. You’re getting over a head cold. Your work schedule is especially hectic.

It’s easy to become derailed from your fitness routine. The important thing is to get started again.

Exercise has so many health benefits. It can help improve your sense of well-being, give you more pep and energy, let you sleep more soundly, make you feel more alert, relieve stress and give you more self confidence.

Here are 7 tips to get your exercise habit back on track:

Set specific goals
You might want to run a marathon, bike 100 miles or train for a triathlon. The best way to get there is to set specific, smaller goals that will lead to your big goal. You may want to practice running a mile first, or biking 20 miles and improving on the time it takes you. You may just want to get more active. You could set a goal to walk two or three miles every day.

Do activities you enjoy
There’s no rule that says you have to go to the gym or buy expensive equipment. I personally don’t like to run. So, I don’t run. There are plenty of physical activities you can do that you enjoy. It may take some time to find what suits your personality. You can try team sports, walking with friends, playing tennis, bike riding or whatever is fun to you.

Make exercise a priority
Until you put exercise at the top of your to-do list, you’ll find every reason not to do it. Make your exercise routine non-negotiable. Then, it will become an integral part of your daily life.

Create a ritual
Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or another cue will automatically lead you to begin your workout. If your physical activity is completely random, it’s harder to get in the habit of sticking to that ritual.

Mix things up
You can still mix up the types of exercise you work into your regular routine. You’re more likely to get bored if you do the same thing every day. Plus, if you work your muscles with the repetitive motion every day, your muscles adapt to it. You burn fewer calories and build less muscle. Switch up strength training with cardio activities like swimming, cycling or kickboxing.

Make it social
Commit to working out with another person. If you promise to meet a friend at the gym or go for a walk after dinner, you’re more likely to make it happen. You can also challenge your friends to meet their exercise goals through phone calls, texts or social media. A strong social network can motivate you to reach your goals.

Reward yourself
Experts say that making behavior changes is hard and that rewards motivate. Decide on a goal and a reward, and work toward it. You can buy new walking shoes after you meet your walking goals. Or get together with your exercising buddies and go out for dinner. Come up with rewards that will motivate you to keep at it!

11 Ways to Cut Sugar Out of Your Life

teaspoon-of-sugar_01I know that I eat too much sugar. I want to cut back but it’s really hard. Sugar is so tasty!

The average American consumes about 32 teaspoons of sugar a day. The American Heart Association recommends women eat no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day.

You’re probably eating sugar throughout the day without even realizing it. Sugar is added to foods that don’t even taste that sweet, including breads, condiments, sauces and all kinds of processed foods and many low-fat products.

Cutting down on sugar can be one of the best ways to improve your health and your weight. Here are 11 ways you can lower your sugar intake and start feeling better:

Read food labels
You’ll soon realize how often sugar is added to foods when you look at the ingredients. Check the grams of sugar and choose products with the least sugar per serving. In addition, ingredients are listed in the order of how much exists in the product. If sugar is near the top, that’s a red flat that it’s loaded with sugar.

Learn sugar’s other names
When you read labels, you need to look for more than just the word sugar. It hides under many tricky names, such as high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn sugar, sucrose, dextrose, honey, cane sugar, cane crystals, maple syrup, molasses and brown sugar.

Buy unsweetened
Now that you know where sugar hides, you can choose to buy foods that are labeled “no added sugar” and “unsweetened.” You’ll find many unsweetened versions of common foods in most grocery stores. You can pick up sugar-free non-dairy milk, nut butters, applesauce, oatmeal and canned fruit.

Don’t go fake
When you start reducing your sugar intake, you may be tempted to switch to artificial sweeteners. These types of sweeteners can mess up your taste for sweet. Your body will be expecting to receive calories and nutrition, but artificial sugars won’t give your body these things. Studies have shown that fake sweeteners may actually lead to weight gain, not weight loss.

Incorporate more protein and fat
Unhealthy carbs are loaded with sugar and can cause blood sugar to rise rapidly. Then, it crashes only to leave you hungry again. To avoid these ups and downs, add more protein, healthy fats and fiber to your meals to slow down the release of blood sugar in your body.

Add spices
While you’re cutting down on sugar, swap it our for healthy spices in your foods. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamon will naturally sweeten foods and reduce your cravings.

Eat real foods
The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Foods in their natural form, including fruits and vegetables, usually present a more healthy option to added sugar.

Drink water
Sometimes drinking water can help with sugar cravings. It turns out, what we perceive as a food craving can actually be thirst. In addition, water offers many other health benefits.

Move your body
Exercise at the gym, do yoga or go for a walk. When you move, you will help reduce stress and tension, boost your energy and decrease your need for a sugar boost.

Get enough sleep
What does sleep have to do with cutting down on sugar? Several studies have found that sleep deprivation of two hours or more under the recommended seven to nine hours leads to overeating and junk food cravings. Getting the proper amount of sleep can help you curb cravings and cut down on your sugar intake over time.

Stick to it!
Cutting down on sugar may feel like an impossible task. But now you have the tools to reduce your sugar intake. Eventually, your taste buds will adjust. Overly sweet foods like ice cream and candy will start to taste too sweet. When you may have normally eaten a whole slice of cake, you’ll find that a few bites will be enough. And, you’ll notice that the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables tastes better!

8 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

2015-2016We all have good intentions when we set New Year’s resolutions. We intend to make a change for the better. We want to reach our goals. We plan to make them happen. Yet, only about 8% of people achieve their resolutions.

So, how do they do it? Here are 8 tips for keeping your New Year’s resolutions this year:

Keep it simple
We tend to get a little gung ho about the new year. It’s easy to end up with a resolutions list that looks like a grocery list. When you set your expectations too high, it makes it easier to fail. Try to limit your list to two or three resolutions you intend to keep. You’ll maintain your focus and efforts with just a few resolutions.

Make it realistic
You may want to lose weight as one of your resolutions. You need to set a tangible, realistic goal. For instance, you may want to lose 50 pounds. However, it may take you over a year to create a healthy routine that allows you to shed the weight and maintain your results.

Create a plan
One way to help keep your resolutions and meet your goals is to create a plan. If you want to lost weight, you can set weekly goals for changing your eating habits and establishing an exercise routine. For instance, the first week you can go through your cabinets and eliminate the less healthy food choices. Create a grocery list of nutritious food options. You might also decide to walk for 30 minutes 4 or 5 days a week. When you have short-term goals, you are more likely to stay committed and on-track for the longer term.

Be passionate
Make sure you choose resolutions that you really want. Put some careful thought into it. You may be feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with your work-life balance. Take some time to think about how you can create more harmony between these two parts of your life. You can make an effort to shut work off in the evenings after 6pm and all day Saturday and Sunday. You may want to work on your relationships with family. Develop a plan to do one fun activity with your spouse and/or kids once a week.

Track it
Tracking your progress will help you stay accountable and keep the resolution in the front of your mind. If your goal is to exercise, write your achievements on a calendar where you can check it regularly. Or, put a gold star on the calendar when you do something as a family. Seeing your results will encourage you to work even harder at maintaining your goal.

Celebrate your successes
You deserve to acknowledge a job well done. Think about ways to treat yourself when you reach the milestones you’ve set. Just be sure it’s a positive reward that will help you on your journey to a healthier, happier you. If your goal is to get your finances in order and pay down debt, then going on a shopping spree may not be a good reward.

Believe in yourself
Your biggest fan has to be you. No matter how much friends or family may support you, it comes down to you. Breaking down a big goal into smaller steps can help you build up your belief that you can do it. Once you see you can make small changes in your behavior and habits, you will be inspired to do more.

Forgive yourself
Don’t give up if you slip up here and there. No one is perfect. It’s how you handle the setbacks that matter. If you go out with friends and eat too many fried, fattening foods topped off with a big dessert, then get back to your regular routine the next day. Getting off track every once in a while shouldn’t deter your from continuing toward your goal.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and more balanced 2016! Have you set any New Year’s resolutions? What will you do to increase your chances of keeping them?

12 Naughty Holiday Foods

holidays-holiday-foods-fullThe holidays mean parties and family gatherings. And it means a buffet of delicious holiday treats. Lots of holiday foods are healthy – filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. However, they can also be loaded up with calories.

Don’t assume that foods are healthy just because they are normally low in calories. Many dishes have been modified with additional ingredients, such as added sugar and fats, to create a fun and festive treat. That also means additional calories.

Here are 12 foods that are on the holiday naughty list and healthier options you can enjoy instead:

Turkey Skin
The skin of turkey and chicken is loaded with saturated fat. Dark meat also have more fat per bite than white meat. Serve yourself turkey or other white meat without the skin.

Stuffing is filled with butter and high-fat meats like sausage. A single scoop of stuffing may have 550 calories. Use low-sodium chicken broth instead of butter, and try low-fat chicken or fruit instead of fatty meats. Or, you can even make stuffing with wild rice instead.

Green Bean Casserole
While green beans are a vegetable rich in vitamins and fiber, the casserole doesn’t offer as many health benefits. The onion toppings, butter and cream that are used to create the dish can contain over 750 calories and over 4,000 milligrams of salt. Stick with plain green beans and skip the rest.

Buttery Mashed Potatoes
Homemade mashed potatoes often contain whole milk, butter and salt. Instead, mash the potatoes with low-fat milk or low sodium, fat-free chicken stock. Then, skip the butter and salt.

Swedish Meatballs
Meatballs may be high in protein, but each meatball can have as many as 400 calories with eggs, bread and cream added to make them. Beef broth can also add up to 50% of your daily recommended allowance of sodium. Choose lean meats without the added fattening ingredients.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries may be a super fruit, filled with antioxidants and fiber, however a serving of cranberry sauce contains around 200 calories and twice as much sugar as homemade pumpkin pie. Stick with the pumpkin pie!

Pecan Pie
Although pecans are packed with healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, pecan pie is filled with sugar and calories. A slice of pecan pie can have more than 500 calories. Try nibbling on a bowl of mixed nuts or a small slice of pumpkin pie instead.

Carmel Popcorn
You may receive a gift of a large tin of carmel popcorn. While popcorn on its own is a healthy, whole-grain snack, adding sugary carmel only packs on calories. Try plain popcorn instead – it’s just as satisfying without the extra fat.

Cakes and Cookies
You may crave carbohydrates in the fall and winter. You want to avoid sweets, but you also know that carbs taste so good and make you feel good. Snack on whole-grain cereals and crackers to satisfy your carb cravings.

Mix together alcohol, heavy cream, eggs and sugar, and you’ve got a recipe with about 340 calories and 19 grams of fat. Make a low calorie eggnog with skim milk, egg substitutes and artificial sweeteners. Or skip the eggnog and have a cup of green tea.

Mixed Drinks
Cocktails can also be surprisingly high in calories. Mix up a wine spritzer by adding a splash of wine and sparkling water to pomegranate or cranberry juice. You cut calories and include fruit in your diet.

Milk chocolate is high in fat and low in nutrients. Go for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa, but still eat it in moderation. Even better, choose dark chocolate with heart-healthy nuts.

‘Tis the season for tasty foods. If you know which foods are naughty versus healthy, you can make good choices and enjoy yourself during the holidays!

8 Myths and Facts About Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits-and-VegetablesWe all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us. However, you’ve probably heard some things about fruits and veggies that are touted as facts but aren’t necessarily entirely true. Many rumors were started when low-carb diets became the latest trend. The natural “sugar” in fruit and the starch in potatoes also got a bad rap.

Here are some of the common myths about fruits and vegetables, as well as the facts you should know:

Myth 1: Fresh is best
Many people believe that only fresh fruits and vegetables count toward your daily intake. In fact, all fresh, dried, and frozen fruits and veggies can be used to make up your daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. All forms are full of essential nutrients. The most important thing is that you eat them!

Myth 2: Juice is bad
Consuming 100% juice is nutritious for you and an easy way to add fruits and veggies to your healthy diet. However, drinking all your fruits and veggies doesn’t cut it. You should mix in other sources fruits and vegetables into your diet.

Myth 3: Organic is more nutritious
In fact, there is no proof that organic fruits and vegetables are more nutritious for you than traditionally harvested fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned about consuming pesticides, the risk associated with consuming them is far less than the risk of not eating enough fruits and veggies.

Myth 4: Potatoes are fattening
When potatoes are dripping with butter, bacon and high-fat cheese or deep-fried, then they are full of calories, fat and cholesterol. A plain medium potato can actually help with weight loss. Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, B6 and fiber. And, potatoes have more potassium  than bananas.

Myth 5: Colorful fruits and veggies are better
In general this is a good rule to follow, but white foods have appealing nutritional values, too. Cauliflower is full of antioxidants, vitamin C and folate. Mushrooms and cabbage also provide many vitamins and minerals.

Myth 6: Vegetarian diets are lacking
Research has shown that vegetarian diets and lifestyles can lead to maintaining optimal health and having a longer life expectancy. The key to a healthy diet is providing your body with a balanced amount of nutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Myth 7: Sugar in fruits is bad
Fruits do contain sugar, but this is different than the added sugar in many of our processed foods. Added sugar lacks the multiple health benefits of fruits, such as phenols, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Myth 8: Fruits and veggies are expensive
Even on a budget, you can include fruits and vegetables in your regular diet. You may even find that buying fruits and veggies is less expensive that some of the more processed foods that come in boxes and packages.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, what matters most is MORE. Americans overall are not eating enough fruits and veggies, and studies are showing they have an even greater role in human health than we once believed. Enjoy your fruits and vegetables in every color of the rainbow every day!

6 Ways to Give Thanks this Thanksgiving

Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.

Thanksgiving is about expressing gratitude for the blessings we have in life. Gratitude puts everything in a fresh perspective and allows us to see and appreciate all of the things we grateful for.

The more you practice giving thanks, the better you’ll be at it over time. Like anything else, you can turn being grateful into a habit and a way of living. The fall and holiday seasons are an especially good time to practice being thankful.

Here are 6 ways you can get creative and give thanks this holiday season:

Invite others to your dinner
Many people are alone on Thanksgiving. If you know a neighbor, friend or someone at work will be by themselves during the holiday, welcome them to join your dinner. Your guests will appreciate the invitation and your gathering will be happier with a sense of fellowship and togetherness.

Share Thanksgiving memories
You can remember Thanksgiving’s past and ask family members to tell fond stories about Thanksgiving memories. You can invite your guests to join in and share their warmest Thanksgiving memories and family stories.

Create a thankful atmosphere
Decorating your home with lovely crafts can create a thankful and comfortable space for family and guests. You can incorporate organic materials, such as greenery, pine cones, stones, leaves or acorns, to create a festive atmosphere. Put out a platter of fruits, veggies, cheeses and nuts to embellish your table. You can even use scrapbook paper and have guests create Thanksgiving card placeholders, sharing the things that they are grateful for.

Do a good deed or volunteer
While Thanksgiving is considered a time for enjoying family and friends, it’s also an opportunity to share your blessings with others. You can do a good deed or volunteer to express your gratitude. Visit a hospital or nursing home. Put together gifts or treats to share with the patients. These small gifts can mean a lot to someone who may not have family to enjoy the holiday with them. You can also donate to a church or charitable organization to help provide for others at Thanksgiving.

Write handwritten notes to friends
When was the last time you received a real letter from a friend or family member? Or the last time you wrote one? You may have family and friends you’re unable to visit during the holidays. A handwritten note sent by mail is a precious way to show your appreciation and love.

Appreciate the little things
A kind word, heartfelt hug or peck on the cheek can express your gratefulness better than expensive gifts. Give compliments to your family and friends on Thanksgiving day. Hugs and kisses are a delight to the young and old alike.

Thanksgiving is a great time to share kindness, thankfulness and appreciation. Get your family involved in doing something good on this day. Teach the younger generous to be gracious and giving. Express your gratitude and say “thank you” to everyone you know!