How Baking Can Help You Build Good Habits

How Baking Can Help You Build Good Habits

February is Bake for Family Fun Month! Aside from yielding delicious baked goods, baking can help families build stronger relationships, improve communication, and teach valuable lifelong skills. You might be wondering, how?  

Well, building healthy skills and habits is a process that starts at home. Group activities, like baking, easily involve family members of all ages and skill-levels and create a space for productive teamwork. All it takes to get started is a quick web search for a healthy recipe, and the willingness to clean up a few spills. 

Here is how baking with the family (or with friends who may as well be family) can be good for teaching and learning healthy habits and goal-setting skills: 

Relationship Building 

Baking allows for creative expression, and you’d be surprised by what you can learn from observing a person’s artistry. In fact, certain types of therapy use art as a way to help children and even adults express emotions, fears, and internal struggles when they’re too difficult to put into words. Working on something that channels our creative side helps us relax, and a relaxed state-of-mind is great for bonding and relationship building. 

A good support system is key when setting goals or developing new habits. Learning to bond with others can help establish new and nurture existing support systems. 

Improving Communication 

“Pass the salt please!” Remember what we said about modeling positive behaviors? It helps others understand what we mean when we say “please be polite” or “please be considerate” if they have an example of what that looks like. When you’re baking, you might say something like “I know your hands are full, but when you have a second can you help me pour the flour?” A statement like this one considers the other person’s current position and gives them room to respond when they are ready. Imagine if the statement was “help me with the flour.” You might get a response like “Can’t you see my hands are full?!” 

Good communication helps us consider how others might receive the things we say. Being able to listen to how our words come across can help us reflect on goals we set and recognize when they sound unrealistic. 

Teaching Lifelong Skills

Baking is a science and it’s often precise down to the minute. It’s great for learning and mastering concepts like: 

  • Timing – Each recipe will vary and one additional or missing ingredient can affect baking time. 
  • How to Estimate – How much is a pinch, really? 
  • How to Follow Instructions – Have you ever missed a step and had to improvise? 
  • Mathematics – Maybe the instructions will feed 8 but you only want to feed 4. Now you need to divide the amount of each ingredient in half. 
  • Chemistry – Food changes when it’s exposed to heat, and that’s all Chemistry! 

When it comes to setting goals, these concepts come into play too! Imagine you have a weight loss goal. You’ll be considering the timing of your meals, recovery drinks, and workouts and altering them to match your changing schedule. You may need to estimate a meal’s calorie count or follow a prescribed nutrition plan or workout regimen. You’ll probably also do plenty of math to track calories, inches lost, and to calculate your BMI. All of this becomes easier when you practice with activities that incorporate these skills. 

Ready, Set, Bake!

Next time you’re stumped for activities to do as a family, unpack your aprons and pull up a good recipe. Your baking day can lead to some positive and healthy skill-building! For some healthy cookie recipes, check out these 8 Waistline Friendly Cookie Ideas. To stay informed with our fitness and nutrition articles, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

How to Press-On with Your New Year’s Resolutions

How to Press-On with Your New Year’s Resolutions

Help! My Resolve is Slipping!

It happens to the best of us! We get tired of the way things are and decide we’re going to make some big changes that we tackle all at once. We go strong for weeks, maybe even months, but suddenly we’re struggling to keep up. When this starts to happen, we need to step back and look at a few things. Why are we struggling, and what can we do about it?

Allow us to walk you through it. Plug in your own answers and see where the process takes you. Let’s begin:

Why am I Struggling?

  1. I’m always physically tired. 
  2. I’ve started coming up with excuses. 
  3. I’m starting to doubt that I can do it. 
  4. The goal looks too big now. 
  5. I don’t have any more time in my day for other things. 
  6. Meal prepping is frustrating. 
  7. The cravings have gotten really bad. 
  8. I’m just going through the motions in my workouts, I may as well not be doing them. 
  9. A fraction of my goal feels like enough. I already feel better than before. 
  10. Too much change is overwhelming. 
    1. Do any of these sound like your reason? Perhaps you’ve identified with more than one. The important thing is that you identify what started to slow your forward momentum. Once you know the reason for your struggle, you can actually start to do something about it. If your reason isn’t up there, you can still move to the next step. Just bear in mind the specific reason why maintaining your resolution has become more difficult. 

    Break it Down

    The next step is to take your reason and break it down even further. You want to start detailing all of its bits and pieces. This helps you take a broad concept and make it more specific; and we know it’s easier to work with more specific thoughts. Let’s do a couple examples together. Say your reason is #3, that you’re experiencing doubt and you’re no longer sure you can accomplish your goal. You would break it down like this: 

    I’m starting to doubt that I can do it because: 

    1. My progress is slow or stalled 
    2. I wanted to accomplish this in 2 months and now I’m running out of time 
    3. I can’t maintain the number of days a week I planned to commit 

    Another example could be #6: Meal prepping is frustrating. Your breakdown might include items like: 

    1. It takes too long 
    2. I miss the simplicity of eating out 
    3. I hate doing dishes 

    Once you have your items listed out, you can probably see some areas that you can work on. Let’s move on to step 3. 

    Take Informed Action

    Now that you’re more informed about why you’re feeling like your resolution may not stick, you can take action. Action looks like this: make a logical statement about each of the items on your breakdown list. This is a technique employed in certain cognitive behavioral therapies. The idea is that you are recognizing a distorted thought process and giving yourself very reasonable explanations for why that thought doesn’t actually make sense. It helps break through the walls that you mentally set up for yourself. Let’s do an example together: 

    1. My progress is slow or stalled 

    If you let your thoughts go from “my progress is slowing down” to “what if I never achieve my fitness goals?” or “what if this is all I’m capable of?” you’re slipping into a cognitive distortion called Catastrophizing. This is what happens when a person takes a single unpleasant event and imagines it will undeniably lead to the worst-case scenario.

    This is what you do to reason your way through this kind of thought: 

    First, remember that our bodies are living and breathing, and it doesn’t matter if we actively help the process, they adapt to change. So, you started working out? Great! Your body struggled at first but now it’s really good at getting you through your 20 minutes on the treadmill. Your body thinks “that’s enough muscle building and cardiac improvement. I can do what’s being asked of me now.” So, your progress starts to slow.  

    As long as you keep your routine, your cardiac health and running muscles will stick around, but if you push yourself to sprint or to hang out on the treadmill for 30 minutes instead of 20, your body will need to adapt again to meet those demands. It’s natural; a slowdown in your progress doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong; it most likely means that your body has adapted to the change.  

    Now that you’ve thought logically about it, a slowdown in your resolution should no longer look like a critical failure. You can repeat that logic to yourself every time doubt starts to creep back in. 

    Rinse and Repeat

    Go through this process for each and every one of the thoughts that holds you back from your goals. Even if it’s something that has a seemingly simple answer. For example, you might hate doing the dishes involved in meal prep. How can you reason your way through that one? Well, take a moment to look at the bigger picture. Is it worth giving up on your goal because of dishes? Is the trade-off worth it?  

    Alternatively, you can think of ways to make the chore of doing dishes more manageable. For example, you can make a habit of rinsing dishes as soon as they’ve been dirtied so you don’t have to spend more time scrubbing dried-on food. Mentally compare the difficulty of that task with your overall goal, and it probably looks quite doable.  

    The general thought is this: when we have trouble with our goals it often feels like we’re hitting obstacles we’ll never overcome. The trick is to recognize the flaws in our thought process and then reason our way out of it. 

    To stay informed with our fitness and nutrition articles, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

    Note: The author has a master’s degree in Social Work and is versed in various cognitive and behavioral therapies. Advice presented is based on an understanding of human behavior but should not replace the guidance of a licensed practitioner or that of one operating under licensed supervision. 

    Cheat Day Regret: How to Make a Comeback

    Cheat Day Regret: How to Make a Comeback

    How to Recover from Your Cheat Day

    The big game calls for big snacks with some equally big numbers on their nutrition label. We all allow ourselves a little room for our favorite foods sometimes, and major events usually take credit for this. However, there’s no need to forfeit your goals if you’ve strayed from the path.  

    There is a way to recover from your splurge, and it’s not a crash diet. Here are 5 healthy ways to get yourself back on track: 

    1. Don’t Panic

    Food cravings are natural and there are a lot of reasons for them. Often, they are linked to common physical and emotional triggers like a lack of sleep, PMS, stress, nutrient deficiencies, and more.1 So, even if your cheat day wasn’t game day, it’s good to understand that our bodies often fight with our brains when it comes to cravings.  

    The good news? There is evidence to indicate that the occasional cheat day can help you stay on track for long-term goals.1 True, the excess calories or getting kicked out of ketosis can make your progress slow-going, but, having an outlet to occasionally enjoy your guilty pleasures can make the mental battle a bit more bearable. 

    The other tips come in no particular order but it’s a good idea to check-in with yourself first to make sure you’re not beating yourself up for the cheat. It’s healthy to acknowledge that cheat days are a good thing in moderation, and if you really overdid it, that you are capable of making a comeback.

    2. Drink Water

    Water helps your body do what it’s already doing, better. Drink water to help your liver and kidneys do what they do best, which is to help process and flush out toxins.2 It’ll also benefit your digestive tract and help move things along. If you ate something your body was no longer accustomed to receiving, you may start to feel a little “backed up.” Water will help get things back to normal. 

    In addition to helping your bodily processes, drinking water can help you eat less. Cheat days usually involve sugar and carbs, the food items most people are cutting from their daily diets. Sugar and carbs do a great job of lighting up your craving for more! Chances are, the day after your cheat day, you’ll be craving just a few more nibbles. Drinking water can help you feel more satiated which helps fight additional cravings.

    3. Stay Off the Scale

    You might be tempted to weigh yourself to assess the damage but doing so will not help you at all. The scale will almost certainly tell you that you’ve gained weight. Seeing a higher-than-normal number can be really discouraging, but the good news is that the weight you gained is not fat. It takes much longer to gain fat than you might think. The extra weight is most likely water.3  

    Here’s the thing: carbohydrates are a good source of glycogen, an easy-to-process energy source. Glycogen happens to bond very well with water,3 a readily available molecule in your body. This is why the scale says you are heavier, because for every gram of carbohydrates, you have 3 or 4 molecules of water bonded to it.3 Your body retains this water and the scale reflects the added weight. Keep your sanity by staying off the scale and take comfort in the fact that you can still bounce back from water-weight.  

    You might think, “well, #2 was to drink water; won’t that add to water-weight?” It really won’t. Drinking water is actually cited as a method to help lose water weight.4 When your body feels dehydrated, it will cling to the water it has. Conversely, if you over-hydrate, your body will retain water as well. Just keep a balance.

    4. Take Advantage of Your Refueled Glycogen Stores

    Speaking of glycogen, if your body has some fresh stores, use them! When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into glucose. That glucose is either used up for immediate energy or converted into glycogen and saved for later.5 Your body has limited glycogen storage and unlimited fat storage, so if your glycogen stores get full, your body converts glycogen into triglycerides (a type of fat). Triglycerides can be used for energy or get stored in your body fat.5 

     

    Get a solid workout in to help use up the stored energy and limit your carb intake to help your body use what you put in on your cheat day. 

    5. Resume Your Healthy Eating Habits

    Make sure your cheat day doesn’t turn into a cheat week. Remember that a single day or meal isn’t going to undo weeks or months of hard work, that the scale is most likely reflecting water-weight, and that you can help your body get back to healthy habits. Look back fondly on how delicious your cheat meal was and then zero back in on healthy eating. 

    For information on how train your taste buds to love the taste of health foods, read our article: It’s an Acquired Taste. If you’re still thinking about how the body uses glycogen and when it starts burning fat, read our article about Exercising on an Empty Stomach. 

    To stay informed with our fitness and nutrition articles, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

    Sources

    1. Penney, Stacey. “Do Cheat Meals Make Diet Sense?” NASM Blog, 11 Oct. 2018, https://blog.nasm.org/nutrition/cheat-meals-make-diet-sense/ 
    2. Chandler, Brynne. “The Best Way to Clean Out Your Body Naturally.” Healthfully, 24 Dec. 2019, https://healthfully.com/the-best-way-to-clean-out-your-body-naturally-5350801.html. 
    3. “Does A Cheat Day Undo A Week at the Gym?” InBody USA, 21 Sept. 2018, https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/88406017-does-a-cheat-day-undo-a-week-at-the-gym/ 
    4. Mawer, Rudy. “13 Ways to Lose Water Weight (Fast and Safely).” Healthline, 9 Aug. 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-ways-to-lose-water-weight#section8 
    5. Boyers, Lindsay. “Burning Fat Vs. Glycogen.” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 16 May 2019, https://www.livestrong.com/article/331651-burning-fat-vs-glycogen/.

    February Flu Prevention: At the Gym and at Home

    February Flu Prevention: At the Gym and at Home

     

    Flu season reaches its peak right around February,1 and February is almost here! Some of us have already fallen victim to the sneezing, the aching, and the overall misery of the flu. Before it strikes (or strikes again), you can prepare yourself for a good fight. First, let’s differentiate between some easily confusable symptoms so you know what you’re up against. 

    Flu Symptoms vs Cold Symptoms 

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breaks it down quite simply. The flu is different from a cold because: 

    • It comes on abruptly (as opposed to a cold which comes on gradually) 
    • You’ll usually have a fever that lasts 3-4 days 
    • It’s common to experience the chills 
    • You may have a headache 

    A cold typically won’t involve these four symptoms unless you have a rare case. Symptoms commonly shared between the cold and flu include: 

    • Aches 
    • Fatigue/Weakness 
    • Sneezing 
    • Stuffy Nose 
    • Sore Throat 

    Now that we know what we’re trying to protect ourselves from, let’s get into some prevention tips. Here are some measures you can take to help ward of the flu this February: 

    Take Precautions in Crowded Places 

    You don’t need to boycott your favorite theme parks or stay home from the store, hockey game, or the gym to protect yourself from the flu. You just need to be mindful of where your hands have been. If you’ve touched something contaminated with flu germs, you’re probably going to be okay unless you got those germs into an open wound. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth until you’ve washed your hands. If you don’t have access to water and soap, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will do the trick until you can wash up.  

    >> At the gym, wash your hands before and after your workout. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth during your workout. 

     

    Keep Commonly Used Surfaces Clean

    The kids are bringing home everything they touched while they were at school, and you’re bringing home everything you touched at work, at the grocery store, and everywhere else you’ve been. Encourage handwashing at home and keep commonly touched surfaces, like doorknobs, the television remote, game controllers, and refrigerator doors, clean and disinfected.  

    >> At the gym, use the available sanitizing foam and paper towels to wipe down your equipment before and after use. 

    Prepare Your Immune System for Battle

    Your nutrition, hydration, sleep, and exercise habits all factor into your immune system’s preparedness. Even your stress levels have a part to play. Fortunately, sleeping enough, exercising, and eating healthily all help reduce stress levels and keep your body strong against germy invaders. To help your system further, read our registered dietitian’s article on Spices That Boost Immunity and Fight Inflammation.  

    >> At the gym, incorporate moderate exercise a few times a week to boost your immunity. Studies show that doing so can drastically reduce the number of colds you catch each year. 

    If it All Fails, Stay Home Until Your Fever Breaks

    You may take every precaution and somehow still get sick, because life is unpredictable that way. If you catch the flu, the CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone away. You can help stop the spread of the flu and take some much-needed rest and recovery time at home. Of course, if you need to see a doctor, you should go. 

    >> At the gym, consider that your flu (or your child’s) can spread quickly in a public setting like the gym or Kids’ Club.

    For more immune boosting foods, check out this article on Fermented Foods. To stay in-the-loop about our fitness and nutrition articles, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

    Sources

    1. “The Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 July 2018, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm.

    Top 10 Positive Health and Fitness Trends for 2020

    Top 10 Positive Health and Fitness Trends for 2020

    Trends vs Fads

    Health and fitness trends sweep the nation every year, and many of them are either a waste of time or, quite contradictory to their intention, are dangerous for your health. Not to be confused with fads, trends indicate a change in behavior that develops gradually among members of a population. Fads seem to crop up out of nowhere and are fueled with a lot of hype, but they don’t last as long. 

    We’re looking into the expected trends for 2020, based on a worldwide survey by the American College of Sports Medicine. Over 6,000 participants, 60% of whom have 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry, have identified these items as positive trends!  

    The survey did not make room for any of these items to be critically evaluated, so that’s up to you, but it does help recognize some new and emerging trends for the coming year. 

    That being said, this is what you can expect to be trending in 2020: 

    Wearable Tech

    Wearable technology can mean a lot of things now. In the fitness industry, one of the first tracking kits came about in 2006 when Nike+ embedded a tracker inside a pair of shoes.1 It measured the things you would expect it to measure: time, distance, pace, and calories burned. You would see your stats on the, then popular, iPod Nano screen. Obviously, people loved the idea of seeing a representation of their hard work. So today, wearable tech continues to increase in popularity.  

    High Intensity Interval Training

    HIIT involves bursts of high intensity exercise mixed with brief periods of rest. Research has done a lot to prove the effectiveness of HIIT workouts, especially when it comes to improving cardiovascular health and even in its effectiveness in changing your body composition. In fact, in his research on the relationship between HIIT and fat loss, Stephen H. Boutcher explains that HIIT “may be more effective at reducing subcutaneous and abdominal body fat than other types of exercise.”2 

    Group Training

    Your cycling, Pilates, yoga, swim, and dance classes (to name a few) may see a spike in attendance this year. More people are learning about the benefits of group training! Not only do class members have the advantage of group support, motivation, and accountability, they have the benefit of a certified instructor leading the way. Your group instructor can amp up the energy to help you push harder and knows when to scale things back to give you a chance to catch your breath. You may also get instruction on correct form, so you don’t have to guess whether you’re moving in ways that are safe for your body.

    Training with Free-Weights

    This method of training is picking up steam. Strength training and functional training have been in the top 10 fitness trends since 2007. Training specifically with free weights, however, now holds the 4th spot in the top 10.3 This includes working out with everything from dumbbells and barbells, to medicine balls and weight plates. Working out with free weights happens to have a lot of benefits. If you’re looking to make the switch, check out our article on how to transition from machines to free weights. 

    Personal Training

    Because of the customization personal training provides, many people turn to it to reach their health and fitness goals. Clients get one-on-one attention, a personalized workout plan, progress tracking, and plenty of guidance and support as they move towards their goals. It’s no surprise that this one has been a top 10 trend for the last 14 years.3 

    Exercise is Medicine® 

    This one is a global health initiative that encourages healthcare providers to assess a patient’s physical activity, recommend treatment, and refer patients to exercise professionals.3 As this becomes more commonplace, you may start to notice your provider taking more of an interest in your fitness regimen. This is an exciting development because it further acknowledges the importance of an active lifestyle and can help patients monitor their activity in more than one place. 

    Body-Weight Training

    Training without (or with minimal) equipment started getting popular around 2013.3 This type of exercise focuses on what you can do using your own weight to train. This involves exercises like lunges, squats, push-ups, planks, crunches, and more. It’s inexpensive, easy on the body, and can be done almost anywhere. It’s a great segue to more involved types of exercise or to help you ease back into things if you’ve been away from the gym for a while. Body weight exercises are also a great way to warm up your muscles before you start doing your weighted reps. 

    Fitness Programs for Older Adults

    This is an awesome trend to see taking a foothold in the top 10 this year. Coming in at #8 is fitness for older adults! The reason we’re excited is because this trend indicates that people are living longer and remaining healthy and active longer!3 Many healthcare providers now prescribe strength training to older adults as it helps them maintain their independence and more easily perform activities of daily living. Check out our article on Strength Training for Aging Bodies to learn more about how strength training helps older adults, and to view some helpful exercises.

    Health/Wellness Coaching

    Health and Wellness Coaching is a behavioral approach to achieving health and fitness goals. You can sit down with a coach (one-one-one or in a small group setting) to share your unique health goals. In return, you receive guidance with goal setting, support and encouragement,3 and if you’re in a small group, a sense of community with others who share similar goals or struggles. This is a nice one to see take a place in the top 10 as it focuses more on the mental and emotional process of tackling health-related change.

    Certified Fitness Professionals

    Last, but not least, a quickly growing trend is in the preference of certified fitness professionals. More and more people are trusting certified professionals over those who are not. We know it’s important to our members which is why our Pro Results® Personal Trainers are all certified! We also seek expert knowledge for our blog posts and podcasts, hosting guests like Registered Dietitian Debbie James, Family Physician Dr. Bob Davari, Master Trainer Geoff Fox, Certified Psychiatrist Dr. Neel Doshi, and more.

    Honorable Mentions

    The following items made the top 20 and are still pretty awesome trends to see emerging (or sticking around) for 2020.  

    1. Functional Fitness Training 
    2. Yoga 
    3. Circuit Training 
    4. Exercise to Combat Childhood Obesity 

    We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about all the up-and-coming trends! Do you plan to commit to anything on this list? Let us know in the comments below! To stay in-the-loop about our fitness and nutrition articles, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

    Sources

    1. Rogers, Andrea. “Wearable Technology: A History.” SPLITFIT, 1 Nov. 2018, splitfit.com/fitness-technology/wearable-technology-history/. 
    2. Boutcher, Stephen H. “High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss.” Journal of Obesity, Hindawi, 24 Nov. 2010, https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2011/868305/ 
    3. Thompson, Walter R. “WORLDWIDE SURVEY OF FITNESS TRENDS FOR 2020 : ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal.” LWW, 9 Jan. 2020, https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2019/11000/WORLDWIDE_SURVEY_OF_FITNESS_TRENDS_FOR_2020.6.aspx

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