Five Ways to Fight Nighttime Snacking

It seems no matter how resistant you are to snacks throughout the day, when those after-dinner-hours roll around you become a snack hound. My husband sums it up well when he stands in front of the panty about an hour after dinner and says, “must consume!” 

Nighttime snacking is a constant battle for many of us, and it can feel like the harder you try to fight it, the stronger the urge. Just like any eating habits, there isn’t one reason we’re prone to snacking at night, but there are some common threads that many relate to:

  • Boredom
  • Habit
  • Lowered willpower
  • Comfort

Whatever the driving factor(s), thoughtlessly stuffing unhealthy snacks into your body each night isn’t the best way to wind down your evening, physically or emotionally. You may hear things like, go on a walk, call a friend, take a bubble bath, and I don’t know about you, but when it’s January in Chicago you better believe the last thing I want to do is place one foot outside!

These are nice in theory, but if nighttime snacking is a routine, you need more realistic tactic. Here are five ways to try out this week when the nighttime snack monster awakes.

Shut Down the Kitchen

Going back to the kitchen for “a little something” is second nature when the lights are on, some leftovers are out, and there’re dishes on the counter. Subconsciously it seems open for business. Instead, once dinner is done, start the practice of shutting it down. Pack up leftovers (preferably before you eat but if the family is hangry maybe don’t test them!), get the dishes in the sink/dishwasher, wipe down the counter tops and turn off the lights.

This can be a little tricky with an open floor plan, but even though my living room morphs into the kitchen, there are still lights above the counter. Cleaning the surfaces (just a quick wipe!) makes things look finished and the act of cleaning up signals that eating time is done. Take it a step further by brushing your teeth!

Keep Busy

I recognize and relate to after dinner being TV time. This is the first chance my husband and I get to sit together so long as one of us doesn’t have something to attend in the evening, and we like to watch at least one show together. But you know how well TV and snacking go together…

This is likely your highest risk of mindless snacking so find something else to do. I’ve gotten (way) into cross stitching, but if you aren’t crafty there are other options.

  • Crossword
  • Sudoku
  • Make your to-do list for tomorrow
  • Get caught up on email
  • Make your grocery list/menu plan for the week
  • Work a small puzzle (this you can keep out and it will last you a while)
  • Stretch/light yoga
  • Iron/fold clothes
  • Flip through a magazine/catalogue

Some of these are for those show you’re watching just to have something on. I know I’d be lambasted if I started flipping through a magazine during House of Cards, but I could certainly be stretching or folding clothes during it. The whole point is to occupy your hands, and if you do this long enough you could break the connection between TV and snacking.

Plan for a Healthier Alternative

This is what works for me the best. It’s the, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality and can save you hundreds of calories even though it involves eating!

Ballpark a time that you’ll have your nighttime snack to avoid grazing from dinner until bedtime, even on healthier fare. I like to wait at least an hour after dinner and give myself a minimum of a half hour before bed so I can digest. This way, you have in mind a time you’re going to enjoy your snack and won’t be obsessing over when to have it.

Think of a few snacks you would look forward to eating that are either healthy or could have a healthy alternative. Some ideas:

  • Halo Top, Enlightened, Arctic Zero low calorie and protein packed “ices cream”
  • Whole grain English muffin with jam
  • Small yogurt with real fruit or nuts
  • Whole grain waffle and honey
  • Air popped popcorn and sea salt
  • Whole grain crackers and cheese (put realistic amount on a plate, don’t take the box with you!)
  • Banana or apple and peanut butter (again, don’t take the jar)

Fuel Yourself Properly for Your Day

This is a proactive approach, but could be the reason you feel ravenous at night. Have you heard the quote, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”? It’s solid nutrition advice but – at least in America – we tend to do the opposite. Many of us skip breakfast or subside on coffee and a bagel, work through lunch and get home starved.

Dinner seems to wake up that appetite you’ve ignored all day and your body thinks it’s time to refuel. The thing is, we expended the majority of our calories already and are going to be sedentary the rest of the evening. Not a good set up for success.

Take a few days to record what you eat in a food journal, and get rough idea of the calories you’re getting and how they’re dispersed throughout the day. If you notice the bulk of calories and your unhealthiest eating takes place from dinner onward, try adjusting to get more healthy calories at the start of your day.This doesn’t have to be a huge routine change, but if you eat a banana in the morning, try adding some peanut butter or a yogurt with it.

Make protein a priority to keep you fuller longer. Check out this post on eating for energy so you don’t hit the afternoon slump and give into every craving once you’re home.

Go to Bed Already!

Raise your hand if you go to bed an hour or more after you think, I should get to bed. Staying up late has a host of downsides for your health, and one of them is more snacking. (You can put your hand down now). The strategies above will help you combat snacking, but you won’t have to combat anything if you’re asleep.

I use my Fitbit to track the amount I actually sleep, and it’s made me more strict about going to bed by 10pm. If you’re a night owl, don’t attempt to go to bed 2 hours before you normally do. Instead, head to bed 15-20 minutes before you normally do and keep inching it up until you find a better balance for you.

Cutting down on the time you’re sitting in front of the TV with your mind wandering back to the food in the kitchen is the path of least resistance when it comes to nighttime snacking. Plus, you’ll get more sleep which sets you up for more willpower and better healthy decision making the next day!

 

How to Soothe Aches and Pains with Essential Oils

No matter what your day is like, there are many reasons you’re experiencing sore muscles, joints, or both. Your workouts, they way you sit at your desk, sleeping the wrong way, the bag you’re lugging around, or the child you’re constantly picking up, are all opportunities for at least one muscle to be strained and leave you attempting a self-massage before the day is done.

Getting a professional massage is ahhhhhmazing, but let’s be honest, can be is cost prohibitive, and popping an ibuprofen provides relief, but is masking the pain and do you really want to rely on synthetic drugs for every ache and pain?

 This is how essential oils can help.

Essential oils are a natural and holistic remedy, so there aren’t the side effects of medication, and you can feel confident in what you are putting in and on your body since you know what it is.

Plus, if you’re already using essential oils for other aspects of your life – cleaning, immunity support, emotional balance, etc. – you can cut out what you’re spending on things like Icy Hot and ibuprofen.

Here are the heavy hitting oils when it comes to muscle relief and how to use them!

Marjoram, Peppermint

Ginger

You may think of ginger as a cooking ingredient or for nausea, but keep it in mind the next time you need muscle relief. Ginger invigorates the nerves, while promoting circulation and healing to both bones and muscles. It helps reduce spasms and general muscle aches and pains, all while smelling spicy and invigorating.

Usage Ideas:
Mix with a carrier oil and apply to area of concern or bottoms of the feet daily for fibromyalgia relief.
Dilute and apply to cramping or spasming muscles.
Mix with carrier oil and apply to lower abdomen for digestion and menstrual cramps.

Helichrysum

Helichrysum oil is steam distilled from the flower and has a herbaceous and sweet honey scent. It reduces pain and accelerates healing, often used for quick relief of acute conditions like carpal tunnel and is a staple in anti-rheumatic medications.

Usage Ideas:
Dilute with a carrier oil and apply to points for carpal tunnel and sciatica relief.
Massage into back of neck and temples to soothe tension.
Mix with a carrier oil and equal parts peppermint oil and massage into points of joint pain.

Lavender

You may notice lavender is basically on every list I make, and for good reason! It’s a staple oil and has anti-inflammatory and calming properties and also eases swelling and supports healthy blood circulation. The sedative properties help ease you to sleep making for a more relaxing night and less body pain upon waking.

Usage Ideas:

Add several drops to a warm bath and soak aching muscles after a long day.
Mix with a carrier oil and massage into aching muscles, apply to areas of swelling for relief.
Add 3 drops of lavender, 2 drops helichrysum, and 1 drop ginger and massage into sprained muscles/ligaments.

Marjoram 

This warm and woody scented oil is calming and has positive effects on the nervous system when taken internally. It helps relax muscles and reduce spasms thanks to its antispasmodic and vasodilator properties, and is a warming oil that also helps ease joint pain.

Usage Ideas:

Dilute and apply topically to areas of arthritis and tendonitis to soothe and calm.
Apply to muscles before and after exercising.
Mix with lavender and a carrier oil and apply to overly exerted muscles in hands from gardening or weight lifting.

Peppermint

Peppermint is like natures Icy Hot, with both warming and cooling properties, plus it acts as an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. Peppermint, along with lavender, is a top oil for pain relief especially for headaches with its ability to reduce tension.

Usage Ideas:

Apply with a carrier oil to temples, above ears, and back of neck to soothe headaches and migraines.
Mix with marjoram and a carrier oil and rub into low back to relieve back pain.
Add equal parts peppermint and rosemary oil to a bowl of steaming water, lean your head over and inhale deeply for sinus pain relief,

These are not the only oils to helps with everyday aches and pains, but they are a great place to start to cover a variety of needs. The next time you reach for pain reducing medication, get out one of the above essential oils and reduce your pain the natural way!

 

 

What to Do When you Lose your New Healthy Diet Enthusiasm

You’ve decided to make a change and start eating healthier. Congrats, that’s huge!

Maybe you gave up fast food, switched to brining your own lunch to work, swap the side of fries for a side of fruit, order regular coffee without the whipped cream/flavor shot/caramel, or any number of healthy choices. It’s exciting at first, isn’t it? You feel proud, you feel confident, and ready for your body to change immediately to reflect your choices.

Then, two weeks pass and you’re not noticing the drastic changes you expected. It doesn’t feel exciting to make these healthier choices, more that you feel bound to them. You don’t want to go back to your old ways, but this is feeling like a lot of work for little reward. What can you do?

I see this a lot in my clients. Maybe this is the first time they’ve done a diet overhaul, or maybe it’s the 25th time, either way, something is not working if they feel they can’t stick with the changes they’ve made.

Here are four ways to make healthy diet changes stick around for the long haul!

Scale back

This is something I find myself working on every client with. It’s understandable to get excited about all the areas of your diet you could improve on – and the bigger your end goal, the more drastic the changes can be – so it’s easy to bite of more than you can chew (pun is always intended here).

The first week of implementing all of these changes is exciting because it’s new and doesn’t feel like too much. Then overwhelm can kick in when you realize it’s not new, it’s meant to be routine.

If you feel overwhelmed with all of the changes you’ve made and they feel more restrictive than empowering, scale back. Focus on the two changes that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Changes that don’t feel invasive and you’ve been wanting to do for a long time. This is different for everyone but here are some realistic examples:

Give up soda
Swap white for whole wheat bread and pasta
Limit dessert to once a week
Skip the drive-thru
Order a side salad instead of anything fried
Limit alcohol to weekends

Whatever you pick, keep it at two, give it at least two weeks, and let them feel easy before adjusting anything else.

Pinpoint your non-negotiables

Just as there is an easy thing for you to give up, there are things that if you try to give them up will haunt you. Figure out what you are not willing to give up, and see how you can make it part of your lifestyle that doesn’t sabotage you. For me, this is sugary cereal. It’s not good for me, but I look forward to it as a nighttime snack and if I tried to cut it out completely I would eat twice as many calories just trying to avoid it.

We all have that thing, and we’ve all tried to stop it cold turkey, but it rarely ends well. It could be peanut butter, chocolate, cheese, ice cream, etc., and you know exactly what it is right now. Instead of white-knuckling it to avoid it, allow it in within reason.

Let’s go back to my love of kids cereal. I recognized I wasn’t doing myself any favors by swallowing a sugar bomb before bed, but it was a non-negotiable I was not willing to give up, and that’s OK! I usually had it on weeknights so I limited myself to twice a week. I looked forward to whichever nights I had it, but I wasn’t on autopilot at 9pm grabbing my bowl and spoon. I had to stop and think, do I want this to be one of my cereal nights?

Connect with your core values

When you make dietary changes only to change your appearance, you’ll have many excuses to stop.

I haven’t lost any weight yet anyway…
I reached my goal so I can eat what I want now…
This is only one time so it won’t make a difference…

When you make dietary changes only to change your appearance, you'll have many excuses to stop. Click To Tweet

Sound familiar? Instead, think about how the changes you plan to make represent who you are not how you look. A great example are people who go vegetarian. Someone who decides to eat vegetarian to lose weight may easily be tempted when a friend orders chicken fingers. They could allow themselves just a bite, what difference would that make? Or they get to a party and there is only one vegetarian dish there so they take a pass for the night.

Now think of someone who went vegetarian because they don’t believe in eating animals. Do you think they’d take “just a bite”? Would they go back to eating animals because they wanted more variety at the party? No! They don’t believe in eating animals so they don’t even consider it.

You may not have a deep passion for not eating fast food, but if you start to see yourself as someone who values your health and takes seriously what you put in your body, it will be easier to turn down cavings for convenience foods.

Think of your Long Term Why

In my coaching sessions we go deep into the Why. Typically clients tell me they want to do health coaching to lose weight. I never stop there, though. We dig into why they want to lose weight, eat healthier, go to the gym more, etc. and get to the bigger Why. How do they see themselves in 10 years if they make the changes they say they want to make? If they don’t make any changes?

When making any big lifestyle change, there will be ups and downs. If it’s weight loss, you won’t lose weight steadily, but as long as you’re moving on a downward trend, you’re losing weight! Instead of focusing on the short term benchmarks of weight or measurements each week, think about the long term goal. Where do you want to be in six months? A year?

Connecting with your Long Term Why will help you see the little blips of unhealthy choices for what they are; occasional slips, not healthy habit ending barricades.

Remember this

Changing to a healthier diet is something you want to sustain for a lifetime. Making drastic changes you can only stick with for two weeks before resorting back to exactly what you were doing before will never get you the change you’re seeking. It’s far better to eat 1/3 the amount of sweets you do now forever than to cut all sweets out for two weeks and go right back to it.

Put your energy into one choice at a time, one day at a time, and you’ll slowly build healthier habits you can maintain.

Working with a professional health coach will help you set meaningful and realistic goals, and help you get there by holding you accountable. I would love to talk with you about where you’re struggling and come up with an action plan to finally get the results you want! Click here to see how you can work with me, and here to start the conversation.

 

24 Minute Total Body Torcher

You can do this total body workout in under 30 minutes right in your living room. Set a timer and rotate through the 4 exercises in each set going at a pace that you can continue the entire 4 or 8 minutes. Take a water break between sets. You’ll alternate between cardio sets and strength training for a total body routine!

Five Essential Oils for Allergies

“Ugh, it’s my allergies.” Is uttered so often and it’s no surprise, with researchers estimating 50 million people in the US suffer from nasal allergies. (AAFA.org)

It seems it’s always “allergy season”, although there are certainly times of the year they spike, an allergy is simply your immune system reacting to an allergen, which is a foreign substance. These substances are harmless to others – pollen, pet dander, dust, etc. – but to some they cause an allergic reaction. When you have an allergy, your immune system sees certain allergens as a threat and creates fighting antibodies causing an inflammatory response; inflamed skin, sinuses, airways, etc.

Over the counter medication seems to be the go-to for surprising symptoms (because there is no cure for allergies), with the top allergy fighting brand Zyrtec bringing in over $345 million in 2016! (Statista.com)

Cost aside, people are looking for more natural ways to ease their allergies, and essential oils fit the bill. This post will cover 5 oils you can use to naturally alleviate your allergy symptoms, and ways to do so.

Eucalyptus  

Eucalyptus is often referred to as a “cool” oil for the cooling effect it has. The primary property of this oil is eucalyptol and alpha-terpineol which promote open airways and a feeling of clear breathing. I don’t have to point out why this could be useful for fighting allergies! It’s also a natural degreaser and while you may think, “great, but I’m not here to learn how to clean.“, Hang on a sec! This also makes it a useful tool for clearing mucus.

Usage Ideas:

Mix with peppermint oil and coconut oil and use like a vapor rub on your chest.
Dilute with coconut oil and apply to outer ear and bone behind the ear to ease earaches.
Place 1-2 drops in a bowl of steaming water and create your own home facial steam.

Lavender

Lavender was an obvious choice for my post on essential oils for better sleep, it is a natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. Although the calming effects of lavender make it great to use for better sleep when your allergies are acting up.

Usage Ideas:

Diffuse to reduce bronchial tube inflammation.
Inhale on the go by placing a few drops on a cotton ball to keep in a baggie in your bag.
Take internally with lemon and peppermint to relieve allergy symptoms and hay fever.
Dilute with coconut oil (in a roller bottle) or use neat and rub into sinuses, forehead, and cheeks.

Lemon

dōTERRA’s top-selling essential oil is lemon, likely because of it’s versatile uses, many of which can help with allergies. It not only helps purify the air, it promotes healthy respiratory function by supporting your lymphatic drainage system. By purifying the air, it kills many of the allergens that trigger allergic reactions.

Usage Ideas:

Take internally (use veggie capsules or put 1 drop in water) to help with seasonal respiratory irritation.
Be proactive and put a drop into laundry detergent.
Apply topically to bridge of nose to slow a runny nose.
Dilute with water in spray bottle and use on furniture to combat allergens brought indoors.

Melaleuca (Tea Tree)

Melaleuca is most known for it’s purifying properties that can destroy airborne pathogens that trigger allergies in the first place. It provides healthy immune system support and protects against both seasonal and environmental threats. Top properties include antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and decongestant.

Usage Ideas:

Dilute and rub the bottoms of your second and third toe to relieve itchy eyes.
Take internally in a capsule or in warm water by gargling to help a sore throat.
Add a couple drops to a cotton ball and rub over skin rashes to soothe and fight bacteria.

Peppermint

Peppermint oil works wonderfully as an expectorant which can help you clear phlegm and congestion immediately. It minimizes inflammation thus promoting clear breathing and healthy respiratory function.

Usage Ideas:

Apply to temples, above ears, and nape of neck to alleviate headaches and migraines.
Apply to bottoms of feet for hives and allergy relief.
Inhale or apply diluted over bridge of nose to help regain sense of smell.
Add to your tea for clear breathing and general allergy relief.

Allergies are a chronic problem and while you may sometimes need to bring in the big guns and fight with medication, essential oils are a great way to reduce symptoms and possible stop them from getting to you in the first place. Try these natural remedies before heading to the drug store and you may be surprised by how much you can reduce your symptoms and pill use.

Four Fall Fruits to Stock Up on Now

Fall has always been my favorite color palate, and it jut may hold my favorite flavors as well. When I went to write about what to cook with this fall, I immediately went to pumpkin and butternut squash, but I am always posting recipes with those. So I narrowed my choices down to fruits that are available in the fall and have a list of four along with three recipes each that will make your kitchen a happy place!

Apples

As much as I wanted to give you something brand new, I absolutely had to put apples on this list. From apple picking to apple cider to apple strudel, apples embody fall. Packed with dietary fiber, plenty of vitamin c, b-complex, and phytonutrients, apples are a cheap and portable way to reap lots of health benefits like preventing dementia and improving neurological health. (medicalnewstoday.com) Biting right into them tastes great, but here are some ways to get cooking with apples!

Apple Cabbage SaladRecipe at Popsugarfitness.com

Apple Cider Baked ChickenRecipe from Gimmesomeoven.com

Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Oatmeal MuffinsRecipe from allourway.com

Figs

You can nearly always find dried figs, but the fresh ones are typically found August-October. Figs are high in fiber so great for the digestive system and also attributed to lowering cholesterol. I always think of sweet treats with figs, but I found some delicious ways to incorporate them into meals other than dessert!

Brie, Apple, and Fig, Grilled Cheese
Recipe from twopeasandtheirpod.com

Stuffed Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash and FigsRecipe from skinnytaste.com

Braised Short Rib Tagine with Figs and AlmondsRecipe from snixykitchen.com

Grapes

Grapes have a long harvesting season, technically starting in May, however September is the peak production time. Coming in a variety of colors and flavors, grapes have only 90 calories per 1.5 cups, making them a great side or snack. They contain zero cholesterol and are excellent sources of both vitamin C and K. (Sun-world.com)

Pan Roast Pork Chops with GrapesRecipe from healthy-delicious.com

Honey Chicken Salad with Grapes and FetaRecipe from Pinchofyum.com

Pears

Pears are one of the low calorie fruits at just 100 for a medium size pear. They are a good source of fiber and regularly eating pears could help protect against colon cancer. Pears can be hard to time right, if they are too ripe, put them in a paper bag to help speed up the process but check them frequently so you don’t miss the perfect flavor window!

Peppered Pork and PearsRecipe from myrecipes.com

Fall Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Pear SaladRecipe from Iowagirleats.com

Caramel & Sea Salt Pear PancakesRecipe from cookincanuck.com

What recipe screams IT’S FALL!!!! to you? Let us know which of these recipes makes your menu in the comments!

Elvis Stuffed French Toast

I love making French toast. It’s super easy to make but looks and tastes super fancy. It’s great on weekend mornings, but even better is having is for dinner! Basic French toast is delicious, but if you really want to wow someone, make them stuffed French toast.

Here’s my recipe to make Elvis inspired stuffed french toast.

Essential Oils for Better Sleep

When I tell people I’m a health coach, they inherently know I help people with their nutrition and fitness habits, but are sometimes surprised when I tell them working on sleep habits is just as important, if not more!

In fact, I have it as my #1 priority when you want to get fit! (Read that post here to see why and what comes next.) I’ve given my best tips on creating your own bedtime routine that makes sleep the priority it should be, but today we’re going to look at essential oils and how they can enhance your sleep.

I wasn’t using essential oils long when I got a second diffuser explicitly for the bedroom. Here are my top oils that help you relax and get a better night’s sleep!

Lavender

Lavender is a versatile oil that I always recommend having on hand, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s most notable properties are the calming and relaxing effects it has to help ease tension in the body. As you probably know, lavender has a familiar flowery and light scent.

Other restful properties include:
Antispasmodic
Sedative
Hypotensive
Antidepressant
Nervine

Usage ideas:
Apply topically to the bottoms of your feet
Diffuse by the bedside
Put a drop on your pillowcase
Rub over heart and back of neck to ease stress

Roman Chamomile

Roman Chamomile has a sweet herbaceous smell, and the plant itself is known as the “plant’s physician” for it’s positive effects on nearby growing plants! It’s often found in perfumes and face creams and has a calming effect on the skin, mind, and body.

Other restful properties include:
Sedative
Hypnotic

Usage ideas:
Add 1-2 drops to tea or hot beverage to calm the body before bed
Diffuse or apply to back of neck and forehead to help with insomnia
Apply to bottoms of feet before bed

 

Sandalwood

The woody, sweet scent of sandalwood is retained for decades, unlike other woods. It’s grounding effects have been used in meditation and religious ceremonies for centuries , and the scent has a positive effect on mood as well.

Other restful properties include:
Calming
Sedative
Antidepressant

Usage ideas:
Diffuse or apply under nose for a calming effect
Apply to bottoms of feet to help with restlesness
Put 1-2 drops in steaming water and use a towel overhead to create an at-home facial steam in the evening

Vetiver

I had never heard of vetiver before using essential oils, but it’s part of the grass family and has a hard to describe sweet, woody, almost smokey smell. It’s often used in massage therapy for it’s natural tranquil properties.

Other restful properties include:
Sedative
Antispasmodic
Calming

Usage ideas:
Use as massage oil to calm emotions
Diffuse along with lavender to cal, emotions and lessen stress
Put a few drops in a warm bath before bed

There are a ton of diffusers out there, I started with dōTERRA by enrolling with their Home Essentials Kit which comes with the Petal Diffuser, but there are many to choose from so find that perfect one for your bedroom and get diffusing!

Interested in getting started with essential oils or just want to know a little more about dōTERRA? Check out my essential oils page or email me with specific questions at samantha@simplywellcoaching.com!

How to Make the Most of Your Fitness Tracker

The market is filled with wearable tech, and topping the list of reasons for buying a wearable device is health and fitness. While there have been sport specific devices for some time – personally, I’ve had some form of a Garmin since I started running – the concept of tracking your daily activities is more recent.

These devices are constantly getting upgrades with new things to track and ways to track them, and we buy them up and wear them obsessively, but are they really making you healthier?

Like any gadget, it's what you do with the information that makes it useful. Click To Tweet

The way I see it, it’s completely up to you. Like any gadget or feedback tool, it’s what you do with the information that makes it useful. Whichever device you use, or if you’re in the market for one, here are some things to consider when looking at your stats.

Step Goal

The Big Kahuna of stats for wearables would have to be the step tracker. Even if you don’t have one, you’ve heard mention of people hitting the generalized 10,000 a day step goal.

While 10,000 is a solid goal, it’s not fit for everyone. For those first starting who consistently hit 4,000, a 10,000 goal may seem overwhelming. I suggest to clients setting a goal that’s a reach but seems doable. The whole point is to move more and whether that’s 6,000 or 10,000 it’s a good goal.

On the flip side, if you easily hit 10,000 by 2pm daily, set a higher goal for yourself! Of course you won’t keep raising it until you’re not sitting down in order to reach it, but you do want to challenge yourself.

Takeaway Tip: Adjust your step goal to ensure it takes effort, but isn’t overwhelming. You should be able to reach it most days of the week. If you rarely reach it even when putting forth your best effort it’s too high. If you always hit it without much thought, it’s too low.

Active Hours

This is a stat I pay a lot of attention to, and I feel is underused. It may look different on various trackers, but there will be some way to see how many hours of the day you are active. For my Fitbit, an hour where I get 250+ steps is considered active and I like to track the hours from 7am-7pm.

Here are two very different days of hitting a step goal; one with active hours, and one without:
When I worked at a desk job, I would run in the morning, walk to the train, then sit at work from 8:30-5. I’d get up to use the bathroom, get water or lunch, but that was it. Then I’d come home, walk the dog briefly and not much more. Sure, I was getting lots of steps, but there were hours of inactivity.

Now, that I work in a variety of spaces, my activity during my day is much more spread out. I’ll start by walking the dog (usually 40ish minutes), working from home a stint, biking to a client or walking to a meet up, walking to a coffee shop to work, biking to  yoga class, etc. I’m rarely seeing more than 2 hours of non-active hours in a row. My steps may be roughly the same, but I’m avoiding the dangers of prolonged inactivity which include:

Heart disease – blood flows sluggishly after a long sit.
Muscle degeneration – When you sit, your glutes are doing nothing, and get used to it quickly.
Leg disorders – Sitting disrupts circulation causing fluid to pool in legs creating swollen ankles, varicose veins, and even blood clots.
Brain fog – Moving muscles pump oxygen and blood to the brain releasing mood/cognitive enhancing endorphins, while inactivity slows this down affecting your brain function
Source: Washingtonpost.com

Takeaway Tip:
Avoid solely focusing on your step goal and look at your active hours each day with as much importance. See if you can avoid more than 1-2 sedentary hours in a row. If this is a real struggle (desk jobs make this tough!) set a timer or turn on the function where your tracker will alert you, and stand up to do some stretches, anything to move your body.

Check out this post – On the Job and on the Move – for ideas!

Sleep

The sleep tracking is perhaps my favorite feature of my Fitbit Charge 2. It’s made me aware of how much sleep I’m actually getting, and now that I have set a sleep goal I want to hit it! I am drastically more adamant about going to bed at a certain time, and place a priority on getting enough sleep by adjusting my morning accordingly if I get to bed late or have missed my sleep goal the previous nights. This could mean moving my workout to later in the day, which normally I would feel lazy about.

Sleep is a cornerstone of wellness and sets all your systems up for success. Think about it; when you’re tired you tend to make fewer healthy choices throughout the day, and reach for the quick-fix energy boost you need, often in the form of sugar-filled options and processed snacks. When tired, it’s easier to skip the workout you planned for the day.

Takeaway Tip:
Set a sleep goal and review your sleep habits at least twice a week if not more. I recommend setting a goal of a minimum of 7 hours. Remember, the time counted towards your sleep is when you are actually asleep, not when you lay down in bed! If you’re used to going to bed much too late, aim for 15 minutes earlier for a few nights, then 15 minutes before that. Suddenly attempting a 10pm bedtime when you’re used to going to bed at midnight will not be a smooth transition!

Don’t miss my post on creating a bedtime routine, here!

Social

Whichever tracker you use, there is some type of social aspect to it. From earning badges, comparing your stats to others, to creating and joining challenges, there are lots of ways to leverage your tracker to keep you motivated and moving.

We are either motivated by competition with others, ourselves, or both, and the social feature(s) play right into that. On Fitbit, you can see your friends’ 7-day step total and where you rank. Even if you don’t think you’re competitive, if you see you’re 3rd on the list you may just take an extra walk around the block.

Challenges are great because they are rather short term. From a one day personal challenge to reach your step goal to a group challenge of who can get the most during the work week, a challenge will pit you against whomever you choose in a super focused goal.

Takeaway Tip:

Take advantage of the challenge feature and challenge yourself or create a group challenge for others and watch how a little competition and accountability gives you that extra push to reach your goals!

When it comes down to it, your body is a tracker. It’s giving you constant feedback; achy joints may mean your posture is off, lack of energy in the afternoon means you aren’t getting enough sleep, growling stomach means you aren’t getting enough food, and unhealthy weight gain means you’re getting too much, etc.

But we often ignore the signals it’s giving us. Using a fitness tracker is a great way to start tuning into how your daily actions effect how you feel. It’s tangible in that you are looking at numbers that you can compare from the past week, month, year, and see your progress.

Do you use a fitness tracker? How has it changed your health habits?

 

25 Minute Cardio Circuit

A good heart-pumping workout will get your endorphins flowing! Try this workout when you want to move but don’t want to leave the house. You’ll be done in 25 minutes, perfect to do during your favorite show 😉

Want more cardio workouts that take less than 30 minutes? Check out my Strongher in :30 e-book and get fit at home!