Tag Archive | body

What Is Physical Fitness? How to Tell If You’re Really Exercising

by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA

 

Keep fit with exercise that’s right for you.

I often get asked: “Is doing physical activity enough, or do I need a structured fitness program to get in shape?”

My answer is different for each person who asks. I have to tailor my answers because fitness is not a one size fits all situation. For many people simply increasing their physical activity will be enough to meet their health goals and expectations; however, for others I may recommend a detailed fitness plan.

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The Difference Between Activity and Exercise

Physical activity

 

Physical activity is simply body movements that involve the contraction of your muscles. All of the activities we do throughout the day that involve movement, such as walking, lifting, cleaning and yard work are examples of physical activity. Most people perform at least a few physical activities everyday without even realizing it – for instance standing and cooking, or popping out to post a letter both require basic movement.

You might find it interesting to write a little mental list of some of the physical activities you conduct each day without usually thinking about them. You may be surprised by how long, or how short, your list is.

Exercise

Exercise is a specific form of physical activity that is planned, purposeful and performed with the intention of gaining specific adaptations in the body, such as stronger muscles, increased flexibility or improved cardiovascular function. Dancing, swimming, cycling, and running are all examples of exercise.

Are you exercising or being active?

There can be a fine line between the two, so the best way to determine if you are just being active or if you are exercising is to do the talk test.

  • If you can talk easily while performing the activity, you are simply being active.
  • If you need to catch your breath and find talking difficult, then you are exercising.

It is the intensity of the task being performed that will determine the health benefits that you will gain from the activity.

Look out for these four physical fitness components, and you’ll understand why exercising is just as important as being physically active:

  • Cardio-respiratory endurance
  • Muscular strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Flexibility

Although it is possible to address all of these fitness components with a physically active lifestyle, an exercise program can help you achieve even greater benefits.

How to get started with an exercise regime

Increasing the amount of physical activity in your everyday life is a perfect way to start on the path toward a healthier, happier more energized you! But if you really want to achieve increased fitness, you’ll want to incorporate structured, more vigorous activities into your schedule a few days a week.

The key to living a healthy, active lifestyle is to take it one day at a time and try to choose activities that you thoroughly enjoy. Over time, you can increase intensity and, perhaps, the duration. Remember that your body is unique, and understanding your health needs (rather than your neighbors’ needs) will keep you on the right track toward a healthy lifestyle.

Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Senior Director of Worldwide Fitness Education at Herbalife.

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Food cravings & your body – by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND

Food cravings & your body | Susan Bowerman | Discover Good NutritionAre food cravings really the body’s way of telling us we’re lacking certain nutrients? The belief holds that nature creates these strong and specific food cravings so we’ll consume the necessary foods to make up the deficit.

It seems like a logical connection – that pregnant women, for example, must crave ice cream because they lack calcium, or pickles because they need sodium. Or that we turn to chocolate to cheer us up because it supplies us with compounds that are supposedly lost during a crying bout.

But scientific studies discount these notions and instead say that cravings – specifically, the intense desire for a particular food, drink or taste – are triggered not by nutritional shortages, but by a more complex set of circumstances.

Yes, chocolate does have some biologically active compounds. Two of them – phenylethylamine and anandamide – could potentially trigger the release of mood enhancing chemicals in the brain, but there’s so little found in chocolate that it’s doubtful there’s enough to have much effect. On top of that, they’re broken down during the digestive process so it’s unlikely that they reach the brain intact – which is the only way they’d do any good.

Pregnant women do yearn for foods that are very sweet, spicy or salty. But it’s thought that these food cravings are driven not by any specific nutritional need – that instead they reflect a natural drive put there by Mother Nature. In ancient times, when food was scarce, a craving for highly palatable foods would help boost calorie intake and ensure a healthy pregnancy. Nowadays, getting enough calories is usually not the problem. But pregnant women may be using cultural norms – they’re ‘eating for two’ – to support giving in to their urges for high calorie fare.

In another blow to the theory that nutritional deficits drive food cravings to replace the nutrient in question, it’s been well documented that some women who are iron deficient will eat huge amounts of ice – which is virtually iron-free. My mother-in-law used to do this. When she was going through menopause, she’d munch through two trays of ice cubes during the evening news. It’s not known why low iron stores trigger this craving, but the yearnings usually go away when the iron deficiency is corrected.

So it looks as if it’s the complexity of the individual – not so much the complexity of foods – that sparks these strong urges. We’re influenced by personal, physiological and social pressures in making food choices, and we may use cravings as a way to justify their consumption.

Ice doesn’t repair an iron shortage, but some people apparently derive pleasure from chewing it. Pregnant women don’t crave ice cream because they need calcium – they crave it because it’s delicious and because its consumption is sanctioned during pregnancy. It’s not just the bioactive compounds in chocolate that we ‘need’. We crave chocolate because it’s such an amazing sensory experience– it’s sweet, smooth, creamy, aromatic – and extremely pleasurable to eat. And since it’s loaded with fat and calories, it’s a sinful, forbidden food, too – which just makes it that much more appealing.

Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.

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4 signs you’re ready to increase your workout intensity by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA

Once a #fitness routine feels easy, you need to up your challenge. Hit LIKE if it’s time to change it up!

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Is your body ready for more? Look out for these signs that it’s time to increase your workout intensity. If you start listening to your body and understand when it’s time to increase your physical challenge, it will help you avoid hitting the dreaded exercise plateau.

Exercise should be progressive in nature. As your body adapts to the demands of your exercise routine, you should respond by slowly increasing the workout intensity. Training in this way will help you to keep improving and building on your results over time.

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Athletes have trained in cycles that involve increasing the intensity, duration or load in their training for years as it is proven to keep your body improving. As a personal trainer and group exercise coach, I believe everyone can benefit from adapting their exercise routine every few months.

Our bodies all respond to a new exercise routine differently. Most people start to notice changes after following a plan consistently for 6-8 weeks. When you first start exercising, the physical changes and indicators that you’re physically improving tend to be quite pronounced. As you become fitter, knowing when it’s time to switch up the challenge becomes a little harder to notice.

Look out for these signs that your workout may be in need of a boost, and some tips on how to increase its intensity.

It feels easy

If your routine used to provide you with a challenge but now seems easy, it’s time to increase the difficulty level.

Tip: If you are only a few weeks into a new routine, add a balance challenge to work the small stabilising muscle groups in your body. Try using an upside down 1/2 ball for your squats to keep you focused.

Heart rate

If your workout on the treadmill or cardio equipment used to get you out of breath, but now allows you to talk easily throughout, it’s likely that your cardiovascular fitness has improved. To push yourself and burn additional calories, increase the challenge.

Tips: Increase the duration of your cardio workout to boost your endurance level. To improve strength and maximise calorie burn, increase the speed or incline.

Safety tip: Monitor your heart rate to ensure it stays within the safe guidelines for your age and fitness level (most cardio equipment has a chart to help you find this). Push yourself to improve; do not push yourself too hard too soon.

Weights are too light

If you’re lifting weights and they feel too light, you may need to increase the weight. In general, lifting very light weights for a high number of reps won’t provide your body with an effective challenge. Use your time more efficiently by increasing the weight.

Tip: Select a weight that you can use to perform 10-12 reps with good form. The last 3-4 reps should feel like a challenge. A good guide is a 10% weight increase every 3-4 weeks. Repetition is essential for mastery and muscular change, so when you first start out, spend time selecting the best starting weight. When it feels too easy, work on increasing intensity.

Boredom

If your workout has you feeling uninspired or unmotivated, it’s time to change it!

Tip: Try a new class that challenges your mind and keeps you mentally engaged. Exercises that work two or more muscle groups simultaneously and those that require complex movement patterns are more likely to keep boredom at bay. Love to run? Incorporate a time challenge or find a picturesque trail to keep you stimulated.

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Remember that an important part of any good fitness plan is a balanced nutrition plan. Make an effort to keep your results evolving by listening to your body and knowing when it’s time to change.

Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.

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Hate your big hips? 5 tips to help you improve your body shape- by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA

Hate your big hips? 5 tips to help you improve your body shape

by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA

Big hips? 5 tips to help you slim down and define | Herbalife Fitness AdviceDo you love or hate your big hips? Here are my five hip-defining tips to help you achieve the figure you want.

Most people have a body area that they dislike but in my experience big hips tends to be a topic of controversy. Some people want to make their hips bigger and really work on getting a great hip/booty package. Others despair at their pear-shaped figure and want advice on which exercises will help give them the proportions they want.

I understand that people want to look good—let’s face it; feeling that we look our best is a huge confidence boost. Follow my five steps to add hip definition and you could be feeling more body positive in no time. These big hip tips will help you define your waist, tone up your tush and work your hip area until it’s perfectly proportioned for you! It’s amazing that by simply taking a few small steps and striving to improve your body through fitness, you could quickly see a boost in overall confidence and self-image.

My advice is to work towards achieving an improved overall fitness level and incorporate your body specific goals into that plan. Here are my five hip-boosting tips to help you get started on perfecting your hip area and booty while burning calories and improving your fitness level.

Boost your cardio exercise regime

Cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling, biking and swimming burn calories. Often the fuel your body uses for these cardio activities is stored body fat. If you’re trying to burn fat off your big hips and booty, making time for a few cardio workouts each week is essential. Remember that you can’t decide where your body will burn fat (there’s no such thing as spot reduction), but adding 30-45 minutes of cardio on three days of the week will help you to burn fat effectively.
To make your cardio workout lower-body specific, try running and include hills to build up your glutes. Or try a spin class – they can be tough but fun and, if you put in the work, you should see results within the first six to ten weeks.

Make small dietary changes

Investing in good nutrition is one of the most important factors in improving your body. If you want to increase your muscle mass you must consume adequate protein. If you’re increasing the amount of exercise that you do, ensure that you are well-hydrated and enjoying plenty of good carbohydrates. My tip is to write down a daily consumption food diary so that you can see what you’re putting into your body. Make small changes to cut out junk foods and choose healthier options. If you focus on snack time to start with, you may be surprised how many empty calories you’re consuming. A change of just a few hundred calories a day can make a big impact on your body composition over time.

Build muscle and tone up

If you want to improve the muscle tone in your lower body, you must add lower body exercises to your routine. My favorites for toning big hips and booty are squats, lunges, step-ups, and leg lifts. Even if your aim is to slim down, building muscle is a perfect choice. Start out by performing these exercises using your body weight, then progress to adding resistance with dumbbells or a weighted bar. Strength exercises three days a week for 30 minutes would be a great start.

Balance your body with upper body exercises

If your proportions aren’t balanced, it can make a certain body part look too big or too small. Sculpting a balanced body, especially when talking about hips, is important. If you want to help big hips look smaller, start working on toning your upper body and shoulders in addition to lower body exercises. Try adding push-ups to your routine—they will tone your arms, chest, abs and back muscles in one simple move.

Get started

This is an important tip because I’ve hear people talk about wishing to improve their body all the time. Unfortunately, wishing without taking action will not work. If you make a commitment to following my simple big hip-slimming tips and getting your exercise routine going, over time you will start to notice changes.

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I love having what I call a ‘strong figure.’ My upper and lower body is muscular but still petite proving that there is no need to be afraid of building muscle. Having a lean body mass means that my body burns more calories each day because it takes more energy for my body to sustain muscle. Muscle takes up less body space than fat as it’s a denser tissue. Having muscle can actually make you look smaller than if you have a lot of fat.

Whatever your overall body goal, just remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. True beauty is what is what radiates from the inside. Maintaining a body fat percentage that is within a healthy range is what I believe is most important.
Good luck working on your hips and booty. Get started and stop wishing!

Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.

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Fitness motivation: 12 reasons to work out today! by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA

Fitness motivation: 12 reasons to work out today!

by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA

Fitness motivation: 12 reasons to work out today!Are you struggling to find some fitness motivation this week? Is the idea of squeezing into that outfit or adjusting your belt buckle to a smaller hole not giving you the motivational push you need? If you’re looking for some reasons to get in shape, then here are 12 reasons to get you motivated today!

As the holiday season gets closer, we may all need a little bit of extra fitness motivation to help us stay focused with our health goals. I talk a lot about the internal health benefits associated with leading a healthy and active lifestyle. Improved health is the primary reason we need to exercise and consume a nutritious diet. We are often easily motivated by our external appearance, but it’s always changing—especially as we age. It feels like we have to work twice as hard and be twice as disciplined to get the same results that came so easily when we were younger. Change is something we all have to accept, our body is continually changing both internally and externally but your desire to be healthy should never change. 

12 reasons to work out today

1: Heart health: Engaging in cardiovascular activity is good for your heart. Your heart is a muscle and pushing it to work hard a few days each week may help to improve your cardiac output. If you engage in cardiovascular activity on a regular basis, you may lower your overall resting heart rate, which is good for your health long term.

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2: Glowing skin: When you exercise, you increase the blood flow around your body. Your post workout glow may not last all day, but you may look more radiant right after your session. If you’re lucky, the healthy glow will make you look and feel great.

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3: Improved posture: Exercising on a regular basis may make you become more aware of your posture. As you gain body confidence and movement awareness ,you become more conscious of what feels right for your body. Slouching may become a bad habit of the past. As an extra bonus, good posture makes you look taller.

4: Less aches and pains: If you have sore and stiff joints that are caused from sitting down all day, moving more often will help to alleviate that stiffness. Joints that are immobile tend to get sore. Once you’re moving on a regular basis, you improve the range of motion, and movements of everyday living become easier to perform.

5: Improved body composition: When you make exercise a part of your lifestyle, you will start to notice changes in how you look and feel. You may lose excess body fat and gain lean muscle mass, which is not only great for your appearance, but it also helps your body to become more efficient at burning calories. A body with a high percentage of lean muscle mass requires more calories just to sustain itself than a person of the same weight who has a higher percentage of body fat.

6: Feel happier: Performing physical exercise can make you feel happier in your daily life. One of the reasons for this is that your body releases an increased amount of endorphins when you’re active. Endorphins are your body’s natural happy hormone. You may also feel happier because you’re taking good care of your body. This sense of accomplishment can often make you have a greater sense of wellbeing.

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7: Control your weight: Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain and help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn.

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8: More energy: Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. When you exercise, your body must deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues to help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily tasks.

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9: Boost brainpower: Working out on a regular basis may help to improve your brain function. Various studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Studies suggest that a tough workout may also increase levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body. BDNF is believed to help with decision-making and higher learning.

10: Less stress: Exercise may act as a temporary diversion to daily stresses. When you’re exercising or having fun doing activities, you’re generally not thinking about the things in your life that are difficult. Taking time out of your busy day to focus on yourself can reduce the feeling of stress. Less stress can also help with weight loss because many people eat unhealthy foods to combat stress.

11: Meet new people: Exercise provides an opportunity for social interaction that may otherwise be lacking in your life. Starting a new activity can help you find a new circle of friends or provide you with a healthier opportunity to reconnect with old ones. So often, we go to out to eat to socialize but doing an activity is much better for your waistline!

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12: Better sleep: Being active can help to improve your sleep habits for several reasons. Exercising raises your body’s core temperature. As it cools back down to normal, it can help you to feel relaxed and ready to sleep. Because activity can help to reduce your stress levels, drifting off at night may become easier.

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There you have it—my top 12 fitness motivation reasons. I can think of a lot more incredible reasons to stay fit and continue to work out, but I’d like to hear from you. Share your favorite fitness motivation tips in the comments section.

Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife

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Graceful Aging Exercises for Everyone by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA

Graceful Aging Exercises for Everyone

Graceful-aging Exercises

Aging may be a fact of life, but with a graceful-aging plan based on a healthy, active lifestyle, you can counteract Mother Nature.

Aging is a fact of life. Loss of muscle tone and bone density, increased fat stores, skin aging and poor posture are all part of the aging process. However, this doesn’t mean you should just sit around and watch your body deteriorate. You can’t prevent aging, but with a graceful aging plan based on a healthy, active lifestyle, you can counteract Mother Nature.

Related Article: Women, Hormonal Changes and Exercise

It’s never too late to get started with an exercise routine and even a small amount of activity can help you to improve the way you feel. Staying active will allow your joints to stay mobile and if you include resistance exercises as part of your plan, you can retain muscular control and stability as you age.

Everyone, regardless of their current age, can benefit from exercise, and reaping the rewards and health benefits of exercise doesn’t have to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. It’s about adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways.

There are many easy ways to get your body moving and improve your health and outlook. However, older adults that have been inactive for a while should consider the following before getting started.

Get Medical Clearance

Consult your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting health condition. Your doctor can let you know if there are any activities you should avoid.

Consider Your Current Health Status

Keep in mind how your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. For example, diabetics may need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule.

Progress Slowly

If you haven’t been active in a while, don’t do too much too soon. Instead, build up your exercise program little by little. Try working out in increments of 10 minutes, two to three times a day.

Listen to Your Body

Exercise and activity should be at least somewhat enjoyable and pain free. If something feels wrong, such as a sharp pain or unusual shortness of breath, stop exercising and inform your doctor so that you can try another activity that’s more comfortable/suitable. You may be able to avoid a lot of the discomfort associated with starting a new exercise routine by ensuring that you warm up prior to exercising and cool down with stretches afterwards.

Get started today with some exercise basics.

Walk More

Walking to enhance your cardiovascular fitness level is a simple activity to get started with. Aim to be active for 30 minutes at least five days a week. Understand, however, that walking alone is not sufficient so consider adding an element of resistance-based movements to your plan on 2 to 3 of your exercise days.

Get Stronger

Strength training helps prevent loss of bone mass, builds muscle and improves balance. Staying strong may also help you avoid falls that are caused by a lack of muscular strength. Ensuring that you do some form of resistance based activity each week may allow you to perform your daily activities, such as shopping, cooking and cleaning, with greater ease.

Be Flexible

Performing daily stretches can help you to become more limber and increase your range of movement. Stretches that are static or involve movement can be done standing. If your current mobility and stability is not ready for this challenge, you can stretch while sitting in a chair or lying down.

With these graceful aging exercises, you can improve your quality of life and make a commitment to getting healthy and active today.

Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Sr. Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.

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5 healthy eating tips to reduce stress by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND

5 healthy eating tips to reduce stress

5 healthy eating tips to reduce stress| Susan Bowerman | HerbalifeThe occasional stressful event – like a car that won’t start, or a refrigerator on the blink – is a part of life.  And when stuff like this happens, we do get stressed a little bit – it’s the body’s way of helping us to focus so we can tackle the problem.  Getting stressed out occasionally is one thing, but when stress becomes chronic – when we face, for instance, unrelenting work demands or constantly worry about our finances –  it can really take a toll on the body. 

The body’s natural response to stress leads us to feel a little more ‘on’ and alert. We evolved this ‘fight or flight response’ as a way to defend ourselves against a sudden danger or threat.  But when this stress response is turned on all the time, it can tax the body’s immune system, making it more difficult for us to ward off disease.  And since a healthy immune system depends on a nutrient-rich diet, being well-nourished is one of the best defenses against illness, particularly during times of ongoing stress.

That’s easier said than done, though.  Stress can also bring on fatigue or depression, so healthy eating might take a back seat to foods that are quick or comforting – and often loaded with fat, salt and sugar.  And if you’re turning to caffeine to ward off fatigue, that can backfire, too, by disrupting your sleep.

Those high calorie comfort foods can stimulate the release of certain chemicals in the brain that make us feel good – at least in the short term – and also make us want to keep eating.  But in a vicious cycle, overeating can lead to weight gain –  which increases psychological stress and which, in turn, can lead to more overeating.

While you might not be able to make the stress go away, there are things you can do to help you manage stress levels and the way in which you respond to it.

  • Eat balanced meals.  Try to include some lean protein – like poultry, egg whites, lowfat dairy, lean meats, fish, or soy products – with each meal.  Protein satisfies hunger and also helps keep you mentally alert.  Round out your meal with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Eat regularly and don’t skip meals.  When you’re stressed it’s easy to put meals off – or even skip them altogether – but energy levels will suffer as a result, and you might end up pigging out when you do finally eat.  If stress is an appetite-killer, try eating smaller amounts of food more often during the day.
  • Try to avoid using food as a stress reducer.  A brisk walk or a cup of herbal tea might work instead.  If you feel the need to eat, hard crunchy foods help relieve stress by putting tight jaw muscles to work.  Try snacking on a handful of almonds, soy nuts or baby carrots.
  • Cut back on caffeine.   People often feel a lack of energy when they’re stressed and turn to caffeine as a pick me up, but it can disrupt your night’s sleep. If caffeine keeps you awake at night, drink decaffeinated coffees and teas.
  • Try to keep mealtimes pleasant – and separate from work or other sources of stress.  If you’re eating at desk while you work, or paying bills while you eat dinner, something’s got to give.  Take a little extra time to slow down and relax while you eat – you’re likely to eat less and enjoy it more.

Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.

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All Herbalife products and nutritional/ beauty/ fitness/ success advice available from:
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