Valentine’s Day: Staying fit with your loved one

Valentine’s Day: Staying fit with your loved one

Love is in the air; a time to treat your loved one to sweets, roses and a romantic dinner. So what does fitness have to do with Valentine’s Day? My answer: everything! No, I’m not going to tell you not to eat sweets on Valentine’s Day. I just want to show you how some basic fitness principles can also apply to your love life no matter where you are on the love spectrum: first daters, a seasoned couple or old married fogies.

Dress appropriately

As in fitness, comfortable well-fitting clothing facilitates confidence and great performance.

Warm-up properly

Think of a few questions and conversation starters in advance to reduce the chance of injurious and embarrassing missteps and misstatements.

Start gradually

Too much too soon may leave you (or your date) exhausted, overwhelmed and unlikely to return.

Focus on quality, not quantity 

In fitness, making the mind to muscle connection improves the quality of your workouts. Similarly, spending less time looking at your watch and more time paying attention to your date is likely to pay huge dividends afterwards.

The Seasoned Couple

Switching up your routine is the way to go. Monotony and complacency often become the status quo for the dating couple who’s shared many Valentine’s Days together. The remedy? Utilize the F.I.T.T. (Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type) principle to keep your workouts fresh and your progress free from plateaus.

Frequency = increase the number of times you tell him you love him. Say it, leave notes, text it, email it or use sign language.

Intensity = make that extra effort to be mindful of all she needs.  If it is acknowledgement, give more of it. If it is praise, shower her with it, if it is thoughtfulness, think about how you can best assist her.  Whatever it is step it up a notch, you will be glad you did.

Time = spend significant time giving your undivided attention. Women (and men) love a good listener.

Type = change the usual schedule of events. For example, go dancing after dinner instead of heading home or get a couples’ massage before a night out on the town.

The Married Fogies

The longer you’re married the fewer things you seem to do together. Take this Valentine’s Day to plan a couples’ session.  Workouts always seem better when you have the right person to work out with.  Plus there’s no better way to be held accountable than to make a plan with someone else. For Valentines Day, plan something for you and your valentine that is completely out of character for both of you.  Try a day trip to a fun location, or play hooky from work to spend that time together. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is something you have never done, making the experience memorable for both of you.

I look forward to hearing what you first daters, seasoned couples and even old married fogies have in store in the upcoming week! (And eat those sweets in moderation!)

Rahsaan Bernard is the President and CEO of Beyond Excellence, a boutique health management firm specializing in corporate wellness services.

How to keep your New Year’s resolutions in check

How to keep your New Year’s resolutions in check

It’s a new year and many of us have made health-related resolutions. That’s a great thing! But some of us have already let our resolutions fall by the wayside. As we head into February how do we make sure that that doesn’t happen to us and we remain on track? Try these five easy steps and let me know how it goes.

1) Find Your Motivation

Nobody can change you, but you! Sustainable change in health outcomes must come from within. Some are motivated by loss, like those who train for breast cancer runs. Others are motivated by serious health challenges, like a concerning diagnosis. Still others just want to be healthy enough to run around with their children and not get out of breath.

Remind yourself that health is not an “end” in itself but the means to many desirous outcomes: improved self image, self-confidence, productivity in relationships and on the job, participation in activities with loved ones, enjoyment in outdoor adventures, etc.

So cut out a picture of that “itsy bitsy teenie weeny yellow polka dot bikini” or if you’re a guy get a picture of the biceps and abs you want to sport on the beach and put it on your refrigerator. Whatever your motivation, success is determined by identifying that inner conviction, and making it your impetus for action. What’s your motivation?

2) Keep it Simple

New behaviors are extremely difficult to add to our daily lives.  Ever try taking a daily vitamin for a month and end up with extras?  Then you know what I’m talking about. According to Dr. Fogg of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, the first critical step in persuading yourself is to select the simplest behavior you have the ability and motivation to complete. For example, give up your favorite parking location to park a bit further – a very simplistic change to increase the number steps taken per day. Then do it for 21 days, the time it takes to build a new habit.

3) Learn Your Activity System

Grab a sheet of paper and write out your “activity system,” the routine, day-to-day activities, conducted from the time you awake, to the time you go to sleep. Now, add the environment in which the activity takes place (i.e. car, work, home, child’s sports practice.) By learning your activity system and its corresponding environment, you can insert triggers that will prompt you to incorporate a health-related action.

For example, if you spend long hours driving (activity = driving, environment = car) try keeping a small lunch bag of healthy snacks on your passenger seat. This will trigger you to eat, therefore, keeping your energy levels high. It also keeps your blood sugar from falling thus eliminating those quick fast food stops.

4) Take Baby Steps

If you’ve never run before, trying to run a marathon by next month may not be realistic. Start with something you know you will have the ability and motivation to execute. For example, if you have a dog set a goal for simply walking your dog one extra block. After two weeks of consistency, try jogging it instead. Add things that are already in your activity system, require minimal resources, and doesn’t require a drastic change in your schedule.

5) Celebrate all wins again and again

Create goal markers along the way and truly celebrate your accomplishments. For example, if your goal is to walk your dog an extra block, at the end of the first week, celebrate! Now your celebration must not obliterate your effort, like binging on your favorite fast food. But it could mean sharing your accomplishment with friends or treating yourself to a relaxing massage. So celebrate, get back to work, and celebrate again!

Avoid overeating at holiday parties

Avoid overeating at holiday parties

Our calendars are filled with social gatherings–luncheons, office parties, and Christmas dinners. Each year, our waistlines bear the burden of this very festive season. But as we enjoy calorie-rich plates, how many of us think about the USDA’s “Food Pyramid” or their latest iteration,“MyPlate,” a colorful icon with the newest portion recommendations? So how do we make practical decisions this year?

I believe the answer lies in what I call the power of the two P’s:  purpose versus preference.  Most of us eat based on what our taste buds prefer rather than eating for the purpose of healthy nourishment. I’m from Jamaica so I believe food has to taste good. But we must minimize the space on our plates for unhealthy options.

What if you just filled your plate with healthier options and saved a corner on that same plate for one of your favorites?  It’s a both – and proposition; not either – or.

I know what you are going to say: “It’s the holiday season.” You’re right. It is a festive time and great tasting food is part of the holiday nostalgia we long for all year. But eating whatever we want adds pounds that must be shed in the new year.

Can you have your cake and eat it too?  The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” As the holidays approach, ask yourself: is the food I’m adding for purpose, preference or both? Here are three tips to get you through the holiday season without adding unwanted pounds.

1.  Drink up.  Studies show that drinking 16 ounces of water before meals can reduce the overall number of calories consumed at each sitting.  So play the volume game.  Drink two cups of water BEFORE going down to that holiday party and keep drinking no-or-low calorie beverages during the events.

2.  Go for protein first.  Protein takes a longer time to digest making you feel fuller longer.  It also lowers the level of ghrelin, the hunger hormone while boosting cholecystokinin, another hormone that makes you feel full.  So grab the chicken skewers, meatballs, and turkey and, please, no separate plate for desserts!

3.  Put on the brakes. Slow down your eating. It takes food about 15 to 20 minutes to pass from your esophagus into your stomach. This means that from the time you take the first bite to approximately 20 minutes later your brain has no clue that you are actually eating.  Therefore, if you eat large amounts in 10 minutes your chances of overeating increase because you still have 5 or 10 minutes before the signal to put the fork down actually turns on. So take a bite then share a laugh with your co-worker, sway a little to the holiday music and enjoy the conversations happening around you. Then, take another bite!

Rahsaan Bernard is the President and CEO of Beyond Excellence, a boutique health management firm specializing in corporate wellness services. Follow him on twitter (@beyondexcell).