By Kaitlin Wren
Feeling like you’ve been off track for a while and want to get back to a healthier routine but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you fell off your routine during quarantine and then got into a good groove half way, only to fall off again! While trying to muster up the motivation to get to the gym and start tracking food again can seem daunting, there are actually a lot more strategic things you can focus on instead. This is by no means me downplaying your nutrition and workouts because those certainly matter too. But you can make a huge impact on your life by optimizing your routines & habits first! I like to take a bird’s eye view of a person’s life, with a very holistic and practical outlook when first getting started with a health and fitness journey. The reality is, if you don’t have a grip on your daily lifestyle habits, the food and workouts really aren’t going to be as impactful. So if you are thinking it’s time to “get back to a routine” and have more energy in a day, here’s a breakdown of what you can do right away.
This is TOP of the list because I truly believe if you optimize your sleep… you change your entire life! It’s not just about the number of hours of sleep a night, but the quality of sleep you’re getting. This is the time your body rests, restores, and heals. Clearly our society values productivity and activity! Unfortunately, your body doesn’t care about that. And lack of sleep is linked as a major factor in many poor body conditions such as chronic stress, diseases, a weakened immune system, psychiatric disorders, hormone imbalances, and more. A very common issue I see with female clients when they have been exercising constantly, counting Macros, but not losing weight… lack of sleep is usually the culprit! Getting good quality sleep all starts with your sleep routine.
Here are some of my go-to sleep recommendations for my clients:
• Blue light blocking glasses
• Essential oils at night in a diffuser
• Cooler temperature
• No phone/tv one hour before bed
• Listening to Alpha waves
This is right there behind sleep… your breath. In the health world, they say “Change your breath, change your life!” One of the simplest things you can start doing now – start breathing through your nose and practicing diaphragmatic breathing! Instead of breathing with your mouth and chest, breathing through your nose and filling your stomach is the proper, optimal way to breathe. By using your mouth, chest and neck muscles, this actually triggers your body into a sympathetic response, otherwise known as the “fight or flight” feeling of anxiety. Whether it’s sitting at your desk working, sleeping in bed, or at the gym working out, nasal breathing is most optimal. Many of us walk around with chronic anxiety, and the majority of this can be changed through our breath.
Here are some tips for better breathing:
• Breathe Right brand, nasal strips (wear them wherever, whenever!)
• 6-2-8 Count (Inhale through nose for 6 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, exhale through mouth for 8 seconds – fill your stomach with air!)
• HEPA air filter for good, clean, quality air in your home (Amazon)
I think many of us know how stress can physiologically wreak havoc on our bodies and ultimately become a disease. I have personally experienced chronic stress and seen it play out negatively on my cortisol levels, ultimately affecting my day to day life. I’ve also helped many other women get their lives back on track by lowering and removing the sources of stress. But let’s not forget, stress can come in many different forms, not necessarily being a “bad” thing but simply giving us feedback. Some forms of stress to our bodies could be dieting, mental/emotional, fasting, resistance training, cardio, inflammatory foods, prescriptions, gut health.
Here are some of my top recommendations to lower stress:
• Meditation (guided with or without brainwaves)
• Adaptogenic supplements
• Minimizing caffeine
• Listening to Binaural Beats – Alpha waves, Delta waves, Theta waves
• Time spent in nature
• Grounding (direct barefoot with the Earth)
Not a good water drinker? Become one! Water is an essential ingredient for life. I always like to give the general rule of thumb of a gallon of water a day.
For those who typically struggle, I like to give a few different tips. The first, setting daily alerts on your phone to remind yourself to drink some water! Or, getting yourself a size 32 oz hydroflask. If you drink 4 of those in a day, that’s one gallon! Water can also be a pretty good fix for a lot of things. Bad skin? Drink water. Constipated? Drink water. Feeling bloated? Drink water. Just had a binger of a weekend? Drink water. You get the picture!
Aiming for 3-5 times a week of 20-60 min of steady-state aerobic exercise is a great place to start for getting back on track into a fitness routine. So a brisk walk or light jog works, especially in direct sunlight (if possible, given where you live). Doing this ideally first thing in the morning is optimal! What this does is it floods your body with oxygen. And obvi we all know how vital oxygen is – allowing us to have energy, focus, and peak performance! But more specifically, this oxygenation increases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). This is a protein that acts on your peripheral nervous system and central nervous system, and encourages the growth of new neurons, helping your existing neurons thrive! Not only is this scientifically a great habit to do in the morning, but starting off with morning workouts are a segway for us to continue making healthy decisions for ourselves throughout the day.
There is obviously so much information that can be jam packed into the topic of optimal nutrition. Be sure to consider that everyone is made up genetically different and may or may not benefit from even the most nutrient dense, whole foods sources (AKA food sensitivities). Just because you are in a caloric deficit (eating less energy than you put out in workouts) does not automatically mean you will lose weight. Self-awareness to your body and what you eat is key! Ultimately, you are the one who knows your body best. Take note of when you bloat and what you ate.
Here are my tips on making a positive impact on your health through food:
• Aim for 2 servings of fruits and 2 servings of veggies (especially green) a day
• Minimize processed foods (look for whole-food ingredients)
• Eat healthy animal fats such as salmon, red meat, plain whole Greek yogurt (if Vegan, still incorporate good fats – Fats are KEY for us women and our hormones!)
• Try to incorporate 20-30g of protein in every meal & snack (the majority of women under eat and definitely lack insufficient amounts of protein)
• Invest in a good quality protein powder (minimal ingredients, try looking at Vegan-plant based powders!)
• Smoothies are GAME changers (you can pack so much nutrients and quality calories in a smoothie and have it replace a meal if you’re on the go, especially for us busy gals!)
Are you ready for even more health and wellness tips? Say hello to Kaitlin on Instagram and learn how to optimize your mind and body.
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