Alternative New Years Resolutions

The New Year is approaching which creates an excellent chance to instill new habits. Check out some alternative resolutions below that are beyond the usual eat better, lose weight goals of years past.

A Year of Praise 

Do you recall the last time you were told good job or thanked for your kindness? Didn’t it just make your day? With this resolution, your goal is to make it a point to genuinely thank people for going above and beyond or for their kindness. You could turn someone’s day around completely with a simple “Thank you so much for making sure I got…” or, “You’re so kind to go out of the way to…”. Leave a positive review for a place, don’t bother with the bad ones. Ask to talk to someone’s boss or manager when they’ve given you excellent customer service. Don’t stop when it comes to strangers. Make it a point at home to tell your significant other thank you for cooking dinner or thank you for folding the laundry. Praise your children, co-workers, and friends. Brag about them and their accomplishments. Too often we expect good behavior and service but that isn’t always the case and instead of admiring those that do give it, we tend to point out those that do not. Make it a year of praise and see how lifting others up will end up lifting you as well!

 

A Year of Snail Mail

Are you like so many others and avoid the mailbox because it just has bills, statements, and junk? It’s a treat to get a card from someone! Start off your year with going through the calendar and marking everyone you hold near and dear to you and the date of their birthday. Next, mark anniversaries, weddings, graduations, holidays etc. Now, go to the store and walk straight to the card section. Grab some thank you cards, some birthday cards (bonus points if you find a different card for each person), and cards to fit the other occasions that will be celebrated this year. When you’re checking out, ask for a book of stamps. Now, put those cards someplace out in the open with a pen and the stamps right next to them. Make it a point to send out cards throughout the year. True, you will need to go back to the card section throughout the year because not all holiday cards are available year round but, as you get accustomed to sending out cards it may become a habit to swing by the card aisle. You will inevitably put a smile on someone’s face when they open the mailbox and see a handwritten card addressed to them. Who knows, you may get a few cards back in return!

 

A Moving Year

Whether your challenge is to walk more, exercise more, drink more water, eat better etc. there is a challenge to get involved in that can help keep you inspired and held accountable. If you’re not already registered with Walker Tracker, sign up for a free account at community.walkertracker.com where you can track your steps and walk along virtual routes to keep you motivated. Find some friends to cheer on and invite friends and family to join as well. If you upgrade to PRO you can even create your own challenges that you can invite your friends and family to participate in!

To keep that step count up, check out another great site, the 52 hike challenge. This global challenge asks you to go on one hike each week of the year. Share your pictures on Instagram and tag them with the hashtag #52hikechallenge and see where others who are doing the challenge are.

Have kids that you need to get outside? Check out Hike it Baby. Choose from your location and find a group of parents that get together with their kids and go for walks and hikes. Their motto is “No one is left behind” and you can choose from paved trails to wooded wilderness hikes. It’ll be fun for your kids and you to get out into nature and meet new people.

 

Picture a day

If you’re the sort of person that says, “Where did the year go?” then this challenge is for you! Try to take a picture every single day of the year. Sure, you will inevitably miss some. Make sure to post the picture somewhere (your Walker Tracker account perhaps?) with the date, why you took that picture, and who is in it, if anyone. At the end of the year, and for years to come, you will be able to look back and see just where that year went and all the wonderful, crazy, lazy, interesting things you did during 2018.

 

No matter what you choose to focus on in 2018 remember that every day is a new day and keep on trying. Post your goal somewhere where you will see it often to help remind yourself of your intentions for the day.

May you stay inspired and flourish!

The Gift of Walking

I’m thrilled to announce that Walker Tracker is now accepting nominations for the 2018 “Gift of Walking” Challenge.

We’re big on walking. We’re big on challenges. We’re also big on sharing our love for physical activity + community! Help us share the love by nominating a nonprofit or spreading the word.

The winner receives a private portal configured just for their organization for up to 500 participants, an 8-week virtual map route challenge and unlimited access to Walker Tracker features during their program (step tracking, activity/fitness conversion, device connectivity, social features, mobile apps for iOS and Android).

Let us know the nonprofit you think would love to participate, why, and how this event could impact them.  Click here to nominate!

 

Thanks, community, for your support!  You keep me going, so keep going!

-Taylor

Finding Slumber

In my previous post about the importance of sleep, I encouraged you to keep track of how much sleep you are getting. I have been using my activity monitor to track my sleep for the past couple months. I am able to see how many hours of sleep I average per night. When I get less sleep, it’s usually because I get in bed late. Holidays and vacations can disturb daily routines, such as bedtimes. Missing out on a party or other holiday event may not seem appealing, but sometimes we have to make compromises with ourselves. Consider leaving an hour earlier than you would normally, or taking a nap beforehand.

Even if we can get in bed at a decent hour, many people suffer from occasional or chronic insomnia. From as far back as I can remember, I have usually had difficulty falling asleep. I know others who find it hard to stay asleep. A few simple lifestyle adjustments could be the solution. Here are a few tips I have found useful if you are looking to improve your sleep hygiene.  

Watch What You Drink and Eat
Caffeine is effective in keeping you alert in the morning, but it will interrupt the flow of melatonin, the well-known sleep-inducing hormone. If you are feeling sleepy in the afternoon, try getting up and moving around, or eating a healthy snack, like fruit or nuts. Also, sugary junk foods can interfere with sleep. If you are craving a snack before bed, try carb-rich foods that promote sleep, which include yogurt and fruit.

Exercise
Better sleep quality is just one of the many benefits of exercise. The body’s temperature drops after exercise, which promotes sleep. Also, exercise can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms that can trigger insomnia. However, avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime. Instead, consider movement that promotes relaxation, such as yoga and simple stretching.

Power Off Electronics
The light from your computer or smartphone screen can delay the release of melatonin, inhibiting sleep. Computer and TV time can also be stimulating activities. Consider downloading a bluelight filter app on your devices and turning them off an hour before bed. Try performing an activity that you find relaxing, such as reading or journaling, and you will be preparing your mind and body for bed.

Sleep-promoting Environment
Create an environment where your body and mind can wind down. Keep your bedroom dark and cool. While many people prefer quiet, there are others who sleep best when listening to calming music or soundtracks. You can also try aromatherapy. Lavender and chamomile are two sleep-promoting scents. Finally, invest in a comfortable mattress. Your sleep is worth it!  

 

Of course, everyone’s body is different; so you may not experience results with all of them, but I encourage you to test any of these techniques. You can make notes in your sleep log and track how your body responds to any adjustments you make. In my case, I find that lavender essential oil in the diffuser and on the bottoms of my feet help me relax before bed.  

Prioritizing your sleep is prioritizing your overall health. As we get deeper into the cold and flu season, our bodies will need to be as strong as they can to defend against illness. Also, sleep and mood are closely connected. With more gloomy, cold weather in the forecast for many of us and the stress of the holidays, getting enough sleep can help enhance our emotional well-being and deter anxiety or depression. Why wait? Try getting good sleep tonight. Your body and mind will thank you!

Sleep Sense

Your body knows what it needs and it will tell you. If you don’t drink enough water, you feel thirsty. Without a restful night’s sleep, you feel tired and your mind is not as sharp the very next day, and potentially the following days. It’s surprising how common lack of sufficient sleep occurs in our society, since, while our bodies do not specifically crave kale or cross-fit, they do crave sleep.

There are countless distractions, such as work and television, that can be robbing you of much needed sleep. Our societal value of productivity is also keeping us out of bed. There are only 24 hours in the day and sleeping for a third of that time may seem “unproductive.” Imagine all we could do if we didn’t have to sleep? But our bodies need sleep, or it would have disappeared through the evolutionary process.

Professional athletes are known to rack up high numbers of sleep hours. Their bodies obviously need more recovery than the average person, but sufficient sleep is essential for all bodies. Among the theories for our need for sleep include memory consolidation (storing what you learn in your memory) and brain restoration (rest). With all the brain power we need to get through the day, sleep is essential. Without enough sleep, your immune system is reduced and you are at higher risk of metabolic conditions, such as obesity.

Ready for more sleep? First, determine how much sleep you are already getting. Walker Tracker offers an easy-to-use sleep tracking tool for our users. Some activity monitors can track sleep automatically, but any recording method is fine. Just keeping track of your sleep hours, similar to a food diary, will make you more aware of your sleep needs and may allow you to see connections between your sleep and your overall health and mood.

The Lighter Side of Thanksgiving

Welcome back, Jessica – Thanks for blogging for us again!

In true Walker Tracker style, we’re happy to advocate for a balanced approach to enjoyment and wellness during the holiday.  That means spending quality time with your family, friends and community, staying active, and having a ton of fun along the way. Check out the post below for tips and tricks from Jessica Lin to lighten your holiday.

Cheers!

Thanksgiving kicks off the Holiday season with a bang and sometimes it can be the start to a downhill slide on the health scale as we flow into Holiday + New Year celebrations. It’s super important during this time of the year to find a balance between everything. When we get over stimulated or stressed we oftentimes find our otherwise healthy habits beginning to slip. With family, friends, co-workers, parties, vacations, travel and the pressure of the end of the year upon us, I hope to share with you a few things to stay in tiptop physical and mental state to remain on a positive path as we move into 2018. We all know there’s nothing worse than starting your New Year feeling like crap, weighing an extra 10 lbs, and embarrassed from our over drinking at the company holiday party.

The most important thing to remember during this time, heck all of the time, is to stay balanced and know that you don’t have to do it all. This time of year it’s about enjoying your time with your loved ones and allowing yourself time to reset before we head into a New Year. Here are a few ways to stay healthy and sane over the next two months!

Take time out for SELF-CARE. In the midst of all the planning, prepping, and partying it’s easy to get caught up and have your feet swept off the ground. Stay rooted by scheduling time for you. What makes you feel shiney and new again?

1. Warm bath/ soaking tub action (If you’re in Portland, OR, I highly suggest treating yourself to a day of soaking and relaxing at Knot Springs)
2. Curl up and catch up with someone you love over tea/ fire
3. Light candles or a fire and leave the screens for an hour to connect with your friend and family, share stories and some laugher
4. Dive into a new book and take time each night before bed to read

With so much eating going with dinner parties, large family gatherings, holiday meals, etc. it’s easy to feel bloated, heavy, and uncomfortable; to not feel your most fit and healthy self. We can derail our healthy eating habits quickly over the next two months but it’s super easy to stay on top of it with a few simple changes. If you’re bringing any dishes, or you’re the captain of the ship and cooking the whole meal, here are a few easy swaps to help keep your holiday dishes on the ‘lighter’ side without losing any flavor integrity.  

  • Skip excess butter or use a butter substitute such as ‘I Can’t Believe it’s NOT butter’ or vegan butter (my preference) – taste is just as great and is ½ the calories
  • Dress your turkey
    • Turkey
      • Use pomegranates, oranges, clove, vegan butter, dash of EVOO and spices to give your turkey the perfect golden brown and highest level of juiciness (stick the cloves in the skin of the bird, melt butter with EVOO and mix with oranges/ poms to coat the bird, then sprinkle with herbs and spices, slice the oranges and ¼ the poms and put them into the roasting pans with everything)
    • Stuffing
      • Use gluten free bread for the stuffing and rice flour to make gravy over gluten heavy flour and breads


  • Make your mash with light sour cream or vegan sour cream over heavy cream
    • Sour cream is my favorite since it enhances the flavor and gives your taters a kick
    • Keep skins on the potatoes to get the most nutrients from your food!
  • Use a dash of Jacobson salt at the very end to reduce sodium intake and make food taste AMAZING!
  • Use fresh herbs to increase flavor in your dishes so less salt is necessary over all

The most important part of staying on track over the next two months is remembering to use some portion control, drink water as well as wine with your meal, and pace yourself as you enjoy all of the amazing food. If you allow yourself time to ENJOY each bite, it may end up saving you a second serving and a few hundred calories. No matter how you end up eating, remember to move and you’ll find a way to balance everything and bounce back after the New Year a little quicker than those who don’t!

Take a post Meal take a walk with your family. Resist the urge to sit and wallow in your overindulgence. I highly suggest taking a break between your meal and pie to walk away from the table, put on your coat and get outside. It doesn’t have to be a long walk but get everyone in the family to join, it’s a nice moment to connect with each other, enjoy the change of seasons, and to digest. By taking this time to walk between courses you will allow your food to settle so you can feel your fullness and not push yourself to over-indulgence. I learned this from my Grandmother and we always take a little walk around the block after we eat to connect and enjoy each other with full tummies and happy hearts.

Play a game post pie – my suggestion is to put on some music and play a game that requires a little bit of movement and tons of laughter. Did you know that laughter burns 3 calories a minute?! Some of my favorite food-coma fighting games are:

  • Charades
    • Create your own categories and clues and break into teams
      • Male v female
      • Generations
      • Cousins V. Aunts & Uncles
  • Cards Against Humanity – great for a good laugh – older crowd only
  • For children give them an opportunity to put on a post-meal performance
    • Gives them something to do before the meal to connect with each other
    • Post meal excitement and “dress rehearsal” while the ‘adults’ go for their post-meal walkabout
    • Memories to last a lifetime

The holidays are a time to come together and that should always remain at the forefront of this time of the year, but there is no reason why you can’t stay focused on your health goals as well. Don’t let the Holidays plow you over or derail you. Tap into yourself and allow yourself balance and control over these next few weeks. If you indulge in food make sure to move, if you drink to excess make sure to hydrate and sweat to help the body to detox. There are so many ways to find balance and all of them are fairly simple, you just have to allow yourself a little time and space to see where and how you can make them work for you.

Holiday Food Hacks

Cooking TogetherAs the holiday season gets fired up, so does baking, gifting and the sharing of delicious food. I’ve always been a fan of finding healthy swaps for baking and cooking, and have completely wowed my biggest food critics (aka my vegan sister and other carnivorous family members). There’s nothing quite like taking a classic recipe and making it even better and healthier by making a few quick easy ingredient swaps.

I think the biggest challenge when it comes to holidays are avoiding all of the sweets that seem to pop up everywhere. I’m a firm believer in moderation and therefore do not steer myself away from the array of holiday goodies that cross my path. However, when I go to make a baked good that will be shared, I turn to vegan treats. Most people are blown away by the simplicity of ingredients (and also effort) most of these recipes have. Below is a list of my favorite recipes for you to try out next time you try your hand at baking. There are also tons of fun vegan recipes on Pinterest.

• Quick and easy, One Bowl Chocolate Zucchini Bread 
• Check out these simple, Vegan Coconut Macaroons
• Pumpkin fans, here’s a recipe for Pumpkin Cookies

I will admit, I’ve had my fair share of vegan baking fails. Part of the fun of vegan baking is adapting ingredients depending on the type of recipe you are following. The biggest subs are for eggs, butter, oil and milk or cream. My favorite swap is unsweetened applesauce for oil (1:1 ratio). This works especially well in cakes and brownies. Eggs can be replaced by whipping up a flax egg, or chia seeds (learn how here).

Making your shopping listHere a few more ideas you can try out for a healthy alternative to everyday ingredients.

  • Sour Cream → Greek Yogurt
  • Pasta → Zucchini Noodles  
  • Milk Chocolate →  Dark Chocolate
  • Heavy Cream →  Coconut Milk
  • White Flour → Nut Flours (almond, chestnut…)
  • Cheese →  Nutritional Yeast
  • Milk → Almond, Hemp or Coconut Milks
  • White rice → Quinoa
  • Mayo →  Avocado
  • Sugar → Agave, Pure Maple Syrup, Vanilla Extract

Keep it Fresh

A few years ago, I had my workout routine down. I made it to the gym on a regular basis and felt great afterwards. But after a while, going to the same exercise classes and working out on the same exercise equipment started to feel stale. Has this ever happened to you? It’s not surprising. While we are creatures of habit, change and challenge can help to keep us motivated in our healthy routines.

Here are some tips on how bash boredom and get excited about exercise, or at least make it more enjoyable.

 

Change It Up

If you regularly list to music during your physical activity, even a new playlist can help prevent boredom. It’s even better to shuffle the songs, so you never know what’s coming up next.

What muscle groups are you neglecting? Switching up your physical activity to target different muscle groups will not only bash boredom, but it also will decrease your risk for injury or help you stay active while recovering from hard workouts or injuries.

Try variations of your favorite physical activity, like aerial yoga, pool cycling, indoor obstacle course, or Bollywood dance.

Personal training sessions can provide personal evaluation and motivation, and introduce you to new fitness techniques and equipment.

 

Enjoy the Challenge

Set a goal for yourself. Setting challenging, yet attainable, goals for yourself will help keep you motivated. It is important to continually evaluate your goals so you keep being challenged. Once a challenge gets too easy, it will seem more like a chore. Continue to test your limits. Sign up for a race or similar fitness event. Maybe join a training team or group to help reach your goal.

Don’t forget to reward yourself. Avoid workout burnout by making your workout more game-like, with points and rewards. Log your workouts on the Walker Tracker app and receive points for logging and meeting goals. (Ex. Each time you reach a new points level, treat yourself to a massage.)

 

It’s important for your physical activity to be enjoyable to keep you moving. Maybe boredom is why trying to work out regularly never stuck before. Why not give it another try? Even if you are still enjoying your current fitness routine, it is a good idea to include variety often to keep things interesting and fun. What can you do this week to “spice up” your fitness routine?

Perks of Caffeine

Cup of Coffee

As I sit here in my favorite coffee shop, sipping a cup of hot holiday brew, I got inspired to write a quick article about my favorite beverage, coffee. There’s nothing quite like sitting on a quiet porch in the waking hours of the morning, sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I love starting out my morning with this ritual, and studies show that just about 83% of all adult Americans do too. If you find yourself in that percentage, you may be wondering how a daily dose of caffeine affects your mind and body.

Here is a quick list of the benefits you may be getting from that cup of morning brew.

1. It can help you burn fat. Pretty much every over the counter “fat burner” supplement and pre-workout supplement contains caffeine and for a good reason. Due to its stimulant status, caffeine jumpstarts your metabolism and creates quicker oxidation of fatty acids (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

2. It helps protect your liver. Studies found that a few cups of coffee daily can help reduce the risk of liver cancer by 40% (Science Direct).

3. Coffee contains loads of antioxidants and nutrients. Now we aren’t talking about white chocolate mochas here, strictly black coffee. Surprisingly, coffee has more antioxidants than any fruit or veggie in the American diet (Healthline).

4. Coffee improves memory. Much like its fat burning properties, caffeine helps improve mental acuity (National Center for Biotechnology Information).

5. It makes us happy. This is my favorite reason. Like most psychoactive brains stimulants, it boosts our mood. I couldn’t forget to mention that it’s delicious as well!

Be Social For Your Health

When I visit my family back in California, my sister and I always try to go out for at least one walk together. Sometimes our lives can get so hectic we need time to catch up and share what we are each excited, worried, or just thinking about. We escape from our busy lives and return to the times when we lived together and could go for walks several times a week. We would treat our walks like appointments. “What time are we going to go for a walk?” I would ask her. After I moved away, we kept walking together, but talking through our phones. My gift to her before I left was a pair of headphones for this purpose.

When it comes to creating healthy lifestyles, we do not have to do it alone. Our relationships can give us confidence and motivation to create an active lifestyle. The best way to gain support for your new fitness goals is to let others know your goals and also to encourage others to be more active with you. Friends help keep you accountable to yourself. Trying a new gym class, like yoga or Pilates, can be intimidating, but it can be easier if you go with a friend. A hike or walk is a fun and easy hangout. Why not ask a coworker to go for a walk to a coffee shop a couple of blocks away, instead of the one in your building? Do you know someone who goes swimming regularly? Ask if you can join them. You can also invite friends over for a low-key workout/dance party. There are so many opportunities to get moving with others.

Having a walking or exercise buddy will not only help you reach your fitness goals, but it will also strengthen your relationships. Relationships are built on shared experience. When you work out or go for a hike with your spouse or friends, you are strengthening your physical health and emotional connections. Emotional connection allows us to build trust and grow in our relationships. Our social relationships can be a great help in building an active culture of wellness where we all can thrive. The key is to take the initiative and seek out social interactions that promote physical activity.

Your challenge for the week: Ask someone to join you on a walk or any other type of physical activity. Who have you not talked with in a while? Who would you like to get to know better? Who do you want to enlist as your next fitness ally?

 

My favorite superfoods

We hear a lot of talk these days focused on superfoods. But how should we incorporate these unique items into our daily routine? What even is a superfood? Lucky for you guys, I’m a bit of a superfood hoarder, as well as adventurer.

A superfood is technically defined as a food that is consumed for a health or wellness benefit. Not only are superfoods packed with unique vitamins and nutrients, they usually taste pretty good too.

One of my favorite things to date is Jackfruit. Surprisingly, this exotic fruit has been popping up on a lot of menus here in Portland lately. So here you are, I’ve compiled a list and a few tips on how to use my favorite superfoods.

1. Chia Seeds. You’ve all probably heard of this food by now, but I like to continuously remind people that they are around due to the omega-3 load these little seeds pack! They are also rich in fiber, protein and minerals. I like to add mine to water with fresh lemon, blend into smoothies and top oatmeal. You can get creative and create a tapioca like pudding with the seeds as well! Here’s a recipe to check out.

2. Cacao Powder. This has become a staple in my morning smoothies. Cacao beans contains 40 times the amount of antioxidants than blueberries, and has the highest level of iron of all plant sources. Mix into oatmeal, blend into smoothies, or indulge in a dark cacao bar.

3. Avocados! Who doesn’t love a good avo? I could personally top everything with a little avocado, and have been found to mix it into my smoothies and even use one to create a facemask. All the good fats in avocado make this a top contender for my favorite superfood.

4. Lentils, the forgotten bean. I’m all about the lentils. My favorite way to prepare them is to create a korean bbq flavor, mixed with brown rice and veggies (found here). Lentils provide a good amount of iron, and are high in protein.

5. Nutritional Yeast. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you already know that nutritional yeast is a must have in your kitchen. It provides us with the vitamin B 12 that is most commonly found in animal proteins. It also can be used as a vegan substitute for several types of cheeses. My favorite snack is air popped white corn sprinkled generously with nutritional yeast!

6. Pitaya. Did one of those colorful smoothie bowls catch your eye this summer? Chances are it was a pitaya bowl! This fruit is a beautiful fuchsia color, and has a flavor similar to guava. Pitaya is loaded with vitamin B, magnesium and fiber. Pitaya may also be referred to as dragon fruit.

7. Bee Pollen granules. This past spring I finally got to be relieved of some allergies by taking local bee pollen daily. I sprinkled it on smoothies. It is 40% raw protein, making it extremely nutrient dense.

8. Turmeric. This is the anti inflammatory root you’ve been dreaming of… maybe. Turmerics main component, curcumin is one of the most powerful anti inflammatory in the world. Try out my favorite recipe for Golden Milk next time you need a warm, winter drink.

9. Jackfruit. Another awesome substitute for meat! Jackfruit is a watermelon sized fruit that contains small, “meat” like textured pods. I’ve prepared jackfruit slow cooked and seasoned with Mexican spices for tacos and burritos. It contains vitamin B, niacin, potassium and magnesium.

 

And there you go! Get out there and be a superfood adventurer.