Tag Archives: Exercise

Ten Small Changes to Be a Healthier and Happier Mom

Being a mom is tough.  I remember when my son was a baby, survival was the only thing on my mind.  Even though they’re cute and you love them to death, infants and toddlers can tire you out and even put you in a bad mood.  Here’s a list of 10 small changes you can make in order to be a healthier, happier mom:

1. Cut the caffeine.  Coffee might keep you going, but your caffeine addiction – yes it’s a chemical addiction – can dehydrate you (it makes you pee more) and cause you to feel jittery or anxious.  This is not a good thing when you’re already stressed out with a kid.  Have one, maybe two cups a day, but that’s it.  For the rest of the day, sip decaf, herbal teas, or just plain water.  That way, you’ll stay hydrated and energized.

2. Have sex.  A lot of new moms call my show complaining that they are too tired or don’t feel like having sex, as though it’s a terrible obligation or assignment.  However, with all the crazy hormonal changes you’re going through, sex might be just the solution.  Sex is therapeutic.  Orgasms release oxytocin, endorphins, and DHEA, which create positive emotions, release tension, improve mood, and give your immune system a boost. In addition, sex does wonders for that post-pregnancy belly pooch because it strengthens the pelvic floor and the lower abs.  Forget the apple – sex a day keeps the doctor away. 

3. Get sleep.  Sixty percent of moms say sleep is their primary challenge.  Are you having trouble falling asleep?  I suggest 10 minutes of yoga, prayer, or meditation before going to bed.  If you find it really hard to shut off your brain at night, keep a journal on your nightstand and before you go to sleep, jot down your to-do list for the next day. Anything that is worrying you, write it down. By getting it on paper, you can say to yourself, “It’s taken care of, now I can sleep.”

4. Eat breakfast.  It’s the first meal (you are “breaking the fast”), and it sets the tone for the rest of the day.  You need to put food in your belly within a half hour of waking up to rev up your metabolism and get your brain going.  Aim for a mix of protein and fiber, such as yogurt with fresh fruit or oatmeal with berries and almonds.

5. Don’t set unrealistic goals.  Don’t overload your brain with 40 million things you think you need to get done.  You won’t stick to what you can’t do.  For example, instead of looking at exercise in terms of weight-loss, approach it in terms of endurance.  When you start off, it may take you an hour to go around the neighborhood. A week later it may take 58 minutes, and then the next week 56 minutes, etc.  That kind of observation is better than stepping on a scale and getting demoralized.

6. Listen to music.  Just like Mother Laura has been saying for years, a recent scientific review published in the journal Nutrition reports that listening to music strengthens immunity, digestion, and pain perception, reduces the incidence of heart failure, and even improves recovery time after a strenuous workout. So, load up your iPod with the kind of music that makes you feel good.  For me, that’s Motown.  When the music comes on, my mind immediately goes blank and I’m just movin’. 

7. Cut out the packaged foods.  Eating any kind of food that can last a long time on the shelf makes you live a shorter amount of time.  Instead of packaged snacks, eat real food.  No antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, or added sugar.

8. Snack smart.  There are times when I get out a teaspoon of peanut butter, lay it in my mouth, and just let it melt (if you have to talk, I don’t recommend doing this).  It keeps my blood sugar up, and it’s a good source of protein.

9. Make your workouts work for you.  With little kids, you may not have time for a half hour or hour workout, but you can break it up into 5-10 minute increments throughout the day.  Or get up earlier.  When my son, Deryk, was little, I used to ride him around in a seat on my bicycle.  I rode him to the park and he’d play, and then we’d get back on the bike and go back.  I also took him to the mall. This worked great: like one of those wind-up toys, I’d set him down, face him in the direction I wanted him to go, and let go.  He would run forward and I would do my little shuffle run behind him.  It’s amazing how you can get exercise by doing simple things like this (of course you get tired and they don’t!).  You can get a good 20 minutes in just by chasing your kid around the mall (if they like to run in a straight line and you don’t take your eyes off them).

10. Stop stressing. Exercise, meditate, or do something fun with your husband.  Whether it’s sex or playing a board game, you need to have some fun before you go to bed.

How to Make Healthy Choices

A woman recently called my program wanting to know why she couldn’t maintain a diet and exercise regime.  I asked her, “Do you know the difference between you and a person who doesn’t stop?”  “No,” she responded.  “They don’t stop,” I said.

There are two ways we make choices.  The first way is reflective.  In the moment, we are consciously aware of our actions and motivations, and we make a choice with a goal in mind.  The other is reflexive.  Similar to lower animals, we don’t change our behavior because of the consequences; we don’t stop to think at all really, we just do it like some kind of machine.  For example, many people sit down with a plate of food and don’t make choices about what’s on the plate or how much of each thing they’re eating – they just eat.

Routine behaviors are very hard to control.  However, the more you make things reflective and consciously parallel your behavior with your goals, the easier it will be for you to achieve them.

Last year, a man called my show who was struggling with pornography.  Wherever he was – in his office, car, etc. – his reflex was to look at porn and masturbate.  I told him to photocopy pictures of his wife and kids and put them on his cell phone, the visor of his car, and every computer he owned.  I then said, “The next time you’re preparing to masturbate to porn, look at the pictures of your family and make a choice.  Do you want to have dignity as a husband and father, or do you want to do that?”

He called me back a week later saying that when he reflected on it, he chose not to do it.  When he didn’t reflect on his actions, he grabbed for the porn and his parts.  Taking the behavior from automatic to conscious was all about reflecting on the behavior and making a choice.

Unfortunately, a lot of people want immediate gratification and do most things without thinking. More than half of deaths worldwide are due to four big diseases: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease.  The main causes are smoking, overeating, excessive alcohol consumption, and sedentary lifestyles. It’s estimated that 75 percent of diabetes and heart disease cases and 40 percent of cancers would be prevented by changing the behaviors that cause them. 

With all the information out there, you wouldn’t think so many people would make such poor health choices.  And yet, they do.  Remember the ads with the woman smoking through a hole in her trachea?  Remember the “this is your brain on drugs” commercials with the egg frying in the pan?  Well, even after seeing these, people are still smoking and doing drugs.  Personalizing the threat isn’t enough.

One time I asked a waitress in a restaurant if she thought the calorie counts printed on the menu affected people’s decisions about what they ate.  She candidly responded, “To fit people, yes.  But to overweight people, the calorie count means nothing.”

The reason people don’t make healthy choices simply comes down to the fact that they don’t reflect on their decisions.  Information by itself means nothing if you don’t care.  That’s one explanation for why there are so many diet books on The New York Times best-seller list: people buy the books thinking that simply reading them will get them to change and when they don’t, they move on to the next one.

So the next time you sit down for a meal, reflect, “Is this what I should be eating? How much should I be eating? Which things on my plate should I toss?”   Make a conscious effort to cut your portion size in half, and eventually, it will become habit to put less on your plate.  As I have said time and again, it’s all about character.  Some people use theirs and others don’t.

What will you choose to do?

The Importance of Getting Your Kids Outdoors

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day, although they stress that the activity doesn’t have to be consecutive.  Is that not the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?  As long as the time they spend walking across the living room and back to go to the bathroom or play video games adds up to an hour, that’s considered OK.  It’s no wonder nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are overweight or obese. 

I know this may sound obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to be fat.  According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, kids living within two-thirds of a mile of a park with a playground are five times more likely to have higher levels of physical activity and weigh less.  In addition, children exposed to nature can reduce their stress levels by as much as a third.  It only takes a 20-minute walk outside to help children with ADHD concentrate better (believe it or not, you don’t have to just drug them).

With all that being said, it’s hard to imagine why so many of our kids are overweight when there are more than 20,000 parks and 11,000 playgrounds totaling over 1.5 million acres in cities across the U.S.  When my son was little, I’d put him in the kid seat on the back of my English racer and ride him over to the park to play all the time.  I don’t know why more people with kids don’t try moving closer to areas with parks nearby.

What I really don’t understand is why kids these days don’t want to go outside.  When I was young, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was be in the house.  That’s where your parents could tell you what you could and couldn’t do.  Instead, I’d always be outside running, riding my bike, hiking, and playing ball with friends.  And it wasn’t called exercise – it was called playing.  Nowadays, kids have Wii and Xbox, and they need special shoes and other electronic equipment in order to be active.

I think one of the reasons kids aren’t as active is that a lot of parents are either too busy or just too lazy to pay attention to what their kids are doing, where they are doing it, and who they are doing it with.  They also take their children to sedentary “mommy and me” groups where they sit there and put one block on top of the other.   Whatever happened to kids going outside, running, pushing, and falling down laughing?  Parents need to stop being so freaked out about the possibility of their child getting a boo-boo.  My theory is if your kid turns 18 with no scars or broken bones, you have been too controlling (I can’t tell you how relieved I was when my son broke his arm when he was 17).

Furthermore, a recent study suggests that your child’s social network of friends can greatly influence how much they move their butts.  The journal Pediatrics conducted a study of 81 kids between the ages of 5 and 12 for 12 weeks in an after-school program.  They interviewed the kids about who they were hanging out with the most and equipped them with devices called accelerometers to measure their activity levels.  What the researchers found was the children’s activity levels increased or decreased depending on who they were hanging out with.  If a child’s friend was sedentary, then he or she would also be inactive.  When given the choice to keep their activity levels the same or change them to match those of their pals, the children were six times more likely to match their friends.

The takeaway from this study is that kids are influenced by their peers, even in how much they exercise.  You need to arrange play dates and encourage your children to have relationships with kids who are active.  Even if your child tends to be sedentary on his or her own, having friends that like to play will make them more likely to go out, run around, ride bikes, and do normal kid stuff. 

As parents, you need to get your kids playing outside.  Limit their electronic media use to an hour a day.  Don’t let them sit there staring at a screen all day with hyperactive thumbs – it’s like a scene out of a scary movie.

How to Stop Bad-Mouthing Your Body

In magazines and throughout our society, there is such a heavy focus on how women look.  Because of this, many women have major body image issues. 

In my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, I relay a call from a woman who told me she was short and tubby.  You know how some people have six-pack abs?  Well, she had a “12-pack” of fat rolls.  The thought of being sexual with her husband made her freak out because she was so self-conscious.  However, I told her that her husband would rather have her naked up against him than have her body be perfect.  She said I was an idiot, but promised to try out my advice anyway. 

So, she went to a lingerie store and bought something bright red and outrageous with spaces everywhere.  It was even a little too small because they really didn’t have anything in her size.  When she got home, she started changing upstairs while her husband was in the living room.  She then stood at the top of the stairs and called for her husband in the garish, red, too-tight lingerie outfit which prominently displayed her rolls of fat.  He took one look at her, smiled widely, and ran up the stairs.  They had a great night (and by the way, she no longer thinks I’m a complete idiot).

In my opinion, women are to blame for this obsession with their bodies.  I read a Glamour magazine survey (which obviously only sampled women who are obsessed with glamor) revealing that 97 percent of women are cruel to their bodies on a daily basis.  After surveying 300 women of all sizes, the researchers found that, “On average, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily – nearly one for every waking hour. And a disturbing number of women confess to having 35, 50 or even 100 hateful thoughts about their own shapes each day.”

That is sick stuff.  I feel sorry for these women who are more concerned about superficial things than their brain or character.  They are not worried about choosing the right men, doing charity work, getting educated, or being aware of what is going on in their community and world.  They are not worried about figuring out how to actually raise their own kids instead of just dumping them in day care.  No.  They are worried about how they look. 

That is so pathetic.  There is something to be said for school uniforms where how you look is irrelevant.  There is less distraction that way.

I’ll admit I’m not too crazy about looking in the mirror and seeing lines and wrinkles.  No woman likes that.  However, I don’t care about new styles of clothes, hair or makeup, and I don’t care about creams that make your face appear younger.  What I do care about is being strong and fit.  I don’t want to be spending the last years of my life unable to get around.  Everything I do is a preemptive strike on the future.  Every day, I get up at 5:30 a.m. and kill myself working out for an hour.  I play tennis two to three times a week, and I also kayak, sail and hike.  I work my body.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have very good luck with genetics, or they’ve been in some kind of accident (e.g. they’ve got osteoporosis and they’re just waiting for a broken hip).  However, when you do have control, put in the effort.  Don’t have 17 different plastic surgeries.

Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a Cincinnati psychologist who specializes in body image and helped Glamour design the survey, said:

“Neuroscience has shown that whatever you focus on shapes your brain. If you’re constantly thinking negative thoughts about your body, that neural pathway becomes stronger – and those thoughts become habitual…Imagine a concert pianist. Her brain would have stronger neural pathways that support musicality and dexterity than someone who hadn’t spent her life practicing.”

Interestingly enough, if a man thinks the same things women are thinking about their own bodies, he’s considered offensive or abusive.  If a man says that a woman’s got a big nose, disgusting skin, bags under her eyes or small breasts, it’s a “no-no.”  And yet with women, negative talk is part of how they bond with each other.

Women also tend to talk and feel bad about something rather than trying to fix it.  Whether it is stress, loneliness, boredom, or a bad day, women go into depression mode rather than being proactive.  I’ve mentioned many times on my program that it’s more typical for guys to be proactive about a problem than women.  Men want to go fix something.  Women want to talk about it over and over and then feel upset about it. 

It’s not easy, but there are some simple things you can do to change your body and feel better:

  • Rewire your brain to see the positive aspects about your body. 
  • Ask yourself if this really is about your body.
  • Exercise!  I cannot stress enough how being physical can change your mood and outlook.
  • Just say “stop” when you have a negative thought.  That will shut it down.
  • Remind yourself that obsessing about what you eat or look like doesn’t make you look better.
  • Appreciate your body for what it does – not what it looks like.
  • Play up your strengths.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Focus on what you have and be proud of it. 

For further reading, here are some interesting body image statistics.

Video: Use Hypnotherapy to Transform Pain

This listener, Lidia, was severely injured during her naval service. Her surgery and rehab were botched and, on top of that, her family never visited while she was in the hospital. 

Twenty-five years later, her rage over these incidents has returned and she’s not sure if this is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  In my opinion, it’s not about her injuries or rehab, it’s about her feeling abandoned by her family. I’ve got a way to transform that pain into something else…

5 Ways to Make and Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Do you know that fewer than half of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions?

Of those who do make them, the three most frequent resolutions are about weight loss (no surprise there), exercise, and stopping smoking.  Also popular are ones dealing with better money management and debt reduction. 

Have you noticed they all have to do with self discipline?

Now here’s the not-so-good news:  one week after the resolution is made (on January 1st), 75% of those who make them have continued with them.  By the second week, 71% are still on board.  At the one month mark, however, only 64% of those who made resolutions are still working on them, and after six months, it’s down to only 46%.  While that’s less than half of the folks who started by making resolutions, it’s still something.  People are more likely to make permanent changes if they focus in on a concept.

The most common resolutions that show substantial success rates include consuming less alcohol, taking trips and vacations, learning a new skill, managing stress, and getting more education.  A little less substantial (but with some success nevertheless) are resolutions like doing more volunteer work, saving money, getting fit, and losing weight.

The resolutions with the least likelihood of success include quitting smoking, overcoming emotional issues or addictions, overspending and debt management.  People just don’t stick with these.

So, if you’re going to make New Year’s resolutions, here are five key points to know about making them and making them stick:

1. Keep them very specific.  “I’m going to lose weight.”  No.  “I’m going to lose 5 pounds by April.”  Make it specific.

2. Make them realistic.  You can wish upon a star but in real life you have to pick something realistic.  “I want to be rich and famous and powerful” would be more sensible phrased as: “I want to figure out a way to be more productive at work, and I probably can do that by getting in there a half an hour earlier.”  Again, keeping your resolutions realistic and focused.

3. Make them known.  When you just say things in your own head, nobody knows and you’re less likely to follow through.  That’s why, for example, marital commitments are made in front of community, family and friends, because you’re making a statement for everyone to hear.  So make them known.

4. Make them measurable by time.  “Every week I’m going to have 2 fewer cigarettes…drink 3 less drinks during that week…walk 2 more miles.”   Put numbers or dates on them. Put in deadlines.

5. Make them fun.  It’s not much fun if you’re obese and trying to lose weight, but you could make it fun if you made little pictures, like, “That’s what I used to look like; this is what I look like now…”  And you can have little pictures on the wall that you drew, showing percentages of weight lost.  Every time you see it, it’s very motivating.  So you can find a way to make resolutions cute and fun — you can. 

Summing it up: make sure your goals are clear and specific, do them in some kind of measurable time so you can actually measure progress, but the big thing is you’re either going to be master of yourself or a slave to your impulses.  You’ll either have discipline and commitment or you won’t and that’s a quality of character.  I know people don’t like to hear the word “character” –  they want to hear the word “addiction” because that takes out any issue of character; that means there’s nothing in your control.  We all know that’s bull.  Your character is what is measured by you following through on what you put your word to.

Excuses and More Excuses

Do you have any idea how many calls I take on my radio program having to do with being overweight and out of condition?  Some people make unfortunate choices in a romantic partner because they believe that being fat makes them  less attractive to a more preferable partner.  Parents call with complaints their obese and sedentary children are being “razzed” in school.  Many women have told me they don’t have sex with their husbands because they hate the way their bodies look!  And others have weight-related medical problems, like adult-onset diabetes, bad knees and low energy.

Ultimately, it all comes down to something that is fixable if there’s an effort made to routinely exercise and moderate one’s food intake.

Nonetheless, the callers generally dismiss this rather straightforward solution with “issues” of depression, low self-esteem, problems from childhood, difficult schedules, etc., all to explain or excuse not exercising or controlling their eating habits.

It’s true eating (the first activity we experience upon birth) is a source of solace and pleasure.  However, as mature adults, we have to satisfy those human needs in healthier ways than letting our bodies be punished into obesity, poor balance, or bad conditioning, all which diminish the quality of life and life’s intimacies.

According to Bloomberg Business Week, only 5% of American adults do some type of vigorous physical activity on any given day.  Most of the respondents to their survey reported such sedentary activities as eating and drinking (96%), watching TV/movies (80%) or only very light activities such as washing, dressing, grooming (79%) or driving a car/motorcycle (71%).

Worse still, the most reported “moderate activity” was food and drink preparation!  38% of the women and 13% of the men listed that one as a physical activity.

These facts demonstrate that, generally, being out of condition is largely a voluntary condition for which people then complain about a lack of motivation. The reason many people join exercise and diet groups is they are held accountable as a motivation. Being part of a group which all has the same goal (e.g., weight loss, muscle toning) puts you in a competitive atmosphere as well as a supportive one.  Going for walks with others, working out with friends, getting involved in a healthy cooking group and other similar examples all contribute to accountability.

Motivation is not a miracle, and it’s not something you should count on before you do what is right, good, and healthy for yourself and others.  Discipline ultimately comes from wanting to be proud of yourself and by learning about your level of courage and character.