How to Get Healthy and Find Balance This New Year

 Written by Guest Blogger Sheila Olson

The new year is often associated with vows of fitness and health. However, to maintain a new fitness routine, one needs to ensure we do not push ourselves too hard. Health is more than strict diets and two hours of exercise a day, after all. Need help? Follow these tips.

Eating Sensibly

There is little doubt that food plays a significant role in our weight. And we tend to watch what we eat when we are trying to slim down. Marketers know this and use many clever tricks to get us to pick foods they want us to believe are healthy. The reality is that anything in a box or adorned with colorful cartoon characters probably isn’t actually good for you. Processed foods, those which aren’t in their whole form, don’t contain any real nutritional value, and they even lead to weight gain. 

Instead of buying portion-controlled meals from the freezer, fill your cart — and your plate — with lean proteins, good fats, and vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. It’s okay to indulge every once in a while, but make these treats a rare occasion. 

Working Out for Health and Fun

Exercise is important for overall health. Yet, so many of us either overdo or underdo it. If you’re the kind of person who feels exercise is a chore, that’s simply because you haven’t found the right activity. One trick is to stop thinking of it as exercising and start thinking of it as fun. What physical activities do you enjoy? Walking your dog? Going to the park? Swimming at the beach? If you don’t know where to start, think about joining a dance class for beginners. Just try something; if you end up not liking it, then try something else. If you find yourself going gung-ho and over-exercising, and subsequently burning out or simply engaging in obsessive habits, you need to tone down. You can alternate high-intensity days with low-intensity sessions, or just cut back what you’re doing. You need a healthy balance, after all. 

Getting the Sleep You Need

There is no getting around the fact that if you’re not sleeping well, you aren’t at optimal health. In fact, prolonged lack of sleep can lead to more than just excessive snacking or moodiness the day after. It can produce serious conditions such as hypertension, depression, diabetes, and psychotic disorders. In other words, you need to improve your sleep hygiene if it is poor. Think about what might be causing you to sleep badly. Is it discomfort? Is your mattress lumpy, stiff, or otherwise uncomfortable? You may need to replace it to sleep better. You should also be following a good sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time every night. Rise at the same time, even on weekends. Lower your stimulants in the afternoon. Relax without technology an hour before bed to help your brain unwind. Find something that works for you, and stick with it. 

Looking Past Stress

Stress is a killer — literally. It can lead to increased suffering from illness and even conditions such as coronary disease and depression. Learning to deal with the stress you experience is in your health’s best interests. Start by reminding yourself in stressful situations that you will get through them, no matter what they are. Another good way to combat stress is to counter the physical reactions we experience under duress. Slow your heart rate by taking deep breaths. Try to treat yourself gently; everyone makes mistakes, and they typically aren’t the end of the world. Don’t berate yourself when you falter. Instead, remember past successes, and tell yourself your value is not dependent on what you produce. Positive self-talk can have a marked impact on our mental well-being and, thereby, our health.

Being healthy is a goal we should aspire to. However, that doesn’t mean letting diets and exercise push us to the breaking point. It means finding balance and enjoying our lives. 

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Do You Read Food Labels When You Shop?

Picture it: You, shopping for food in Anystore USA on Anyday of the week. You pick up a product you have been using for weeks, months, maybe even years. You put it directly into your shopping cart, confident that you have made a good choice. OR You, shopping for food in Anystore USA on Anyday of the week. You pick up a product that has a very “healthy-looking” label that screams all the great attributes of the product. You put it directly into your shopping cart, confident that you have made a good choice.

A great deal of money is spent on advertising – from the name of the company to the name of the product to the size, weight, and shape of the container. Then, the colors on the label to the pictures, and the words. All of this is designed to compel consumers to purchase their product. Grocery shopping isn’t usually the highlight of our lives. We shop on auto-pilot most of the time and rarely read the BACK of the package where there is more truth than on the front.

I don’t think that word means what you think it means!
“Natural” and “All-Natural” really don’t mean much, if anything. The FDA has no real rules to define what those words mean when describing food, ingredients, processing, or packaging.

“Light”, “Lite”, and “Healthy” are terms the FDA applies only to the fat content of a product. “Light” and “Lite” are used by some manufacturers to describe the color of a product. Foods that have a low fat content may be loaded with sugars or artificial sweeteners, such as cookies and snacks. Foods that have a high fat content may actually be healthy, such as avocado and nuts.

“Gluten-free” is an over-used buzzword. Many foods that never contained gluten are now advertised as “gluten-free”. This designation doesn’t mean that anyone with Celiac Disease is safe. The same goes for “Nut Free”, “Dairy Free”, or any other “free” related to food allergies or sensitivities. If the ingredient is not intentionally added to the product, it doesn’t have to be added to the list of ingredients. Processing plants and manufacturers are mandated to clean their equipment but there is no way to remove all the allergens. So, if a product has no mention of allergens or says “may contain”, it’s a good bet that there are allergens.

“Non-GMO”, “Organic”, etc. are words. It’s our job as the consumer to find the meaning.

Some labels announce great health benefits. “Made with real (juice, fruit, honey, etc)”, “naturally flavored”, “0% trans-fats”, “heart healthy”, “no salt”, “less sodium”, “vitamin fortified”, “no added sugar”, “excellent source of (vitamin, mineral, fiber, etc.), and so on are claims made on too many products. Credit for this amazing level of misdirection goes to the well-paid advertisers. Read the ingredients. Do the ingredients support the benefits hyped on the front of the label. Read between the lines? “Made with whole grain” may mean wheat, or corn, or rye, or barley, or oat – who knows?

Another misleading item on labels is portion size. Cereals typically show very large bowls of cereal – larger than the serving size listed on the box. Frozen meals often show an overflowing plate of food. Even though we know these are “not true to size”, we just don’t think it through.

Become an informed consumer – read and understand the labels.


Processed foods are not only unhealthy, they cause weight gain. There is less nutrition in processed foods, so we eat more to satisfy our nutritional needs eating far too many calories along the way. Artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners are chemicals. We wouldn’t consider buying these chemicals and adding them to our recipes. Thickening agents, preservatives, emulsifiers, etc are more chemicals. Humans were never meant to consume these substances. Manufacturers remove vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from “real” food during processing and then add them back artificially. Many of our foods are genetically modified so that pesticides, herbicides, growth enhancements, and disease and drought resistant elements are an inseparable part of the food. These chemicals and toxins damage our organs and alter our hormones causing weight gain. 

The best way to a healthy diet is to eat foods that are not processed or minimally processed and to know the country of origin. It’s a new way of shopping and eating, but your quality of life depends on it.


Nutrition Labels Can Help You Lose Weight

Knowing how to read nutrition labels can help you understand portion size and choose which foods you’ll eat. Some food manufacturers declare a small portion size to keep the calorie count low. Nabisco Oreo Cookies are 160 calories for only 3 cookies. Two tablespoons of Kraft Ranch Dressing are 110 calories. Does anyone actually eat only 3 cookies or use only 2 tablespoons of dressing on their salad? Being aware of the portion size and calories in each portion can change how much you eat or the brand of food you eat.

Calories and portion size are not the only things to consider when you’re choosing what to eat.

FDA regulations require food labels contain the following information. 
• Calories
• Calories from fat
• Total fat
• Total carbohydrate
• Trans fats
• Cholesterol
• Sodium
• Dietary fiber
• Sugars
• Protein
• Vitamin A
• Vitamin C
• Calcium
• Iron

Other information is optional.
• Vitamin D
• Vitamin E
• Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
• Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
• Niacin (Vitamin B6)
• Folate
• Vitamin B12
• Biotin
• Pantothenic Acid
• Phosphorus
• Iodine
• Magnesium
• Zinc
• Copper
There are only 2 instances where the optional nutritional information becomes mandatory – when the supplement is added to enrich food and when there is a health claim on the label.

The % Daily Value is also listed so that you can see how much of the MINIMUM daily requirement of that nutrient is in each serving. All the information given is based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. Do you know how many calories you need each day?

Start reading the label . . .

  • What is the serving size?
  • How many calories are in each serving?
  • What is the % Daily Value? (5% or less is very little, 15% or more is a lot)
  • Choose more fiber, Vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.
  • Choose less fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and cholesterol.

The nutrition label is the first step to good choices. Spend your food dollars on wholesome choices by using the information on the labels. Reading food labels while shopping can be time consuming –  SO, check the labels on the food you already have. Decide which items you’ll look for better choices.

It’s a process!

Heavy Metals in Our Baby Food?


There’s more than yams in that jar! Consumer Reports tested baby foods from several well-known manufacturers and found heavy metals in the food we are feeding to our most precious children.

It’s very concerning that “worrisome” levels have been found in many products and some are even considered “potential health risks”. Organic baby foods are no exception.

The FDA reminds us that some heavy metals are in the soil and, therefore, will be in the food. Nice thought! Some baby food manufacturer’s products contain very low amounts of heavy metals. Hmmm. That would infer that it is entirely possible to reduce the amount of heavy metals in the food.

Babies and children are at particular risk because they consume more food per pound of body weight than an adult and they’re growing.

Here’s what parents need to know about Consumer Reports’ baby food tests

Heavy metals accumulate in the body over time and can cause a wide range of health problems. Headaches, infertility, anxiety, memory problems, digestive problems, and autoimmune diseases are some of the symptoms of heavy metal overload. It’s very difficult to diagnose based on symptoms, but there are tests to determine the level of heavy metals in the body.

The Impacts of Heavy Metal Toxicity

Heavy metal overload can be treated, but the best course of action is PREVENTION!

If this concerns you, sign the petition!

How To Stay Fit Without Sacrificing Self-Care

Guest Post by Sheila Olson

My name is Sheila and I’m on a journey of exploration: what is the relationship between fitness motivation and self care? I overdid the “fitness motivation” side of the equation for years – I pushed and goaded myself along with guilt until my world collapsed and I discovered the deep unhappiness I’d been avoiding. I learned that fitness burnout is real and can happen to anyone who isn’t careful about keeping an eye on balance. Please visit me at

 How To Stay Fit

Without Sacrificing Self-Care

Between weight control, increased strength, greater self-confidence, improved mood, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, exercise has many benefits. But when staying fit turns into a full-blown obsession that moves all other priorities to the wayside — to include relationships — it’s time to make adjustments so you can administer proper self-care. Being healthy does not come from one singular action, which is why it’s crucial that you’re living a balanced lifestyle so you feel well in your mind, body, and spirit.

Pursue Balance… Literally

One of the best ways to incorporate self-care into your already active lifestyle is by adding yoga and meditation to your workout routine. With consistent practice, you’ll see amazing physical and mental benefits, including better breathing and less stress. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a calm, meditative space in your home where you can easily retreat at least once per day. It doesn’t have to be a whole room. Simply a corner of a room will work in most cases, as long as the layout and design help you focus your mind. 

Establishing Normal And Healthy Eating Habits

Eating too much or too little, skipping meals, or eating too many processed foods all have negative side effects, like severe weight fluctuations, vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, high cholesterol and blood pressure, skin conditions, mood swings, and lethargy. By establishing proper eating habits, you’ll have improved physical and mental health. It can be hard to replace a bad habit with a good one, but here are some tips to get you on track:  

  • Eat A Balanced Diet

When it comes to eating, learning and applying the original food pyramid (45 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, and 30 percent healthy fats) to your diet will help you establish sustainable healthy eating habits. 

  • Kick The Junk Food Habit

Processed and fast foods can cause weight gain, heart disease, and cancer, so it’s best to eat a diet filled with “real” foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole-grains, and healthy fats such as avocados and olive oil. Many health experts actually suggest shopping the perimeter of the grocery store to avoid the middle aisles that are typically stocked with unhealthy convenience foods. The more vegetables you can eat the better. Aside from being nutritional powerhouses, they’re chock-full of fiber and water so they help you feel full without consuming a lot of calories. 

  • Track What You’re Eating

Whether you use an app, notes in your phone, or go the old-fashioned route with a pen and a journal, log everything you’re eating. Not only does it help you stay within a healthy calorie range, but it can be a tool to assess your habits — for better or for worse. To better manage your weight (to include loss), figure out how many calories you need each day.

  • Be Mindful Of The Way You Eat

Never let yourself become too hungry or get too full as both can sabotage your weight loss efforts. 

Get Enough Sleep

No matter how busy life gets, sacrificing sleep to get things done is liable to backfire in the form of weight gain, depression, reduced immune system, impaired memory, clumsiness, heart disease, and cancer. Implement healthy habits into your lifestyle in an effort to make it easier to get ample shuteye. 

  • Don’t drink caffeine 6-8 hours before bedtime.
  • Establish a regular bedtime and stick to it.
  • Avoid exercise before bedtime, but note that physical activity done earlier in the day can help with sleep.
  • De-stress before bed by meditating, listening to relaxing music or ambient noise, or taking a hot bath.
  • Never bring work or undesirable activities like paying bills into the bedroom — keep it a place of peace.
  • Don’t look at your phone before bed or during the night — keep it in another room to avoid temptation. 

Be Mindful Of Other Health Issues

If you’re recovering from a mental or physical illness, make sure you speak to your doctor about limitations or restrictions with regard to exercise — though you shouldn’t have to avoid it all together. In fact, physical activity can be extremely beneficial for people with other health issues. For example, exercise can help people with chronic illnesses boost their mood and improve their quality of life. Group classes, team sports, and the gym environment are all good ways to meet healthy, like-minded people, too. 

If you’re having problems finding balance between exercise and self-care, don’t waste any time. Speak to a professional who can help you understand the root of your obsession. While it may take some time to establish balance, it’s never too late to make improvements to your health — to include reversing any damage both mentally and physically.    

Photo Credit: Pixabay