PJ’s Top 10 Health Tips for 2013

Welcome! Tuesday’s Scribe here. This is an extra long post, but worth the read if you’ll bear with me. Being a Massage Therapist and personal trainer in the “real world” doesn’t exempt me from the laws of nature. That means that I am as susceptible as you are to the effects of gravity. As the image in my mirror reveals (it refuses to lie no matter how many spells I cast upon it), I can’t hide the addition of several pounds of holiday related “rolls”(ew). Yes, I too suffer from the intense attachment to chocolate that plagues even the strictest of gym rats. I’m PJ Sharon, and I, like many of you, am determined to do serious battle with my new found “writer’s bulge,” courtesy of my first year in publishing.

I know, I know…another diet, another fitness plan. Every January  the gyms are flooded with well-meaning but “weak-willed” souls who last about a month and then fall back into their old rut of unhealthy living. The truth is, living healthy is not rocket science. A healthy lifestyle is not a “diet” or an “exercise routine.” It requires a long term commitment to change. I wish I had the secret to turning on the “self-control” and “self-discipline” switches in the brain that some have and others struggle to find. There are many factors that influence us to take care of ourselves, but none is greater than healthy self-esteem. If you’ve tried and failed on your own and repeatedly lost and gained a significant amount of weight, I highly recommend you seek counseling to address the underlying issues that are keeping you stuck.

It may sound mean, but we all know when we put something in our mouth if it’s good for us or not. If you don’t know this, join Weight-Watchers and learn how to make healthier choices. Usually, we know when we are over-eating, and we definitely know when we aren’t getting enough rest (one of the leading contributors to weight gain). The trick is in catching the problems early. It’s infinitely easier to get back on track when we’ve gained only a few pounds instead of waiting until it’s ten or twenty…or fifty. It’s not hard to imagine why our clothes are fitting tighter than we like, or why we feel like crap from the sugar hangover we inflicted the night before by eating pizza, drinking that “extra” glass of wine, and then scarfing down chocolate ice cream for dessert. I’m not saying you can’t eat a piece of pizza or enjoy a glass of wine occasionally, but learn about portion sizes and find alternatives to these “fun” foods, saving the real deal for special occasions. And no…Friday night is not a special occasion. There are tons of creative ways to prepare foods that are healthy and delicious. Explore…get out of your rut!

I don’t know about you, but this being a grown up thing is a mixed blessing. Being an adult means that I can do what I want…eat what I want, right? Sure…if I want to live with the consequences. On the down side, there’s no one else to blame for my declining health or weight gain but me.  The bottom line is that I’m responsible for making good choices…about food, about my activity level, about cultivating healthy relationships, and about my work habits.

The first change I’ve made in the past few months is creating time to take care of myself by designing a work schedule that I can live with. That means regular office hours set aside to run my author business, and regularly scheduled work out sessions. Whatever I don’t get done in my office on any given day/night, I choose to let go and trust that I’ve done enough for that day. I will no longer sacrifice my “Healthy Me” time for social media or other tasks that will still be there the next day calling out to me. I know we’re all struggling to find balance these days, but honestly, none of it is worth dying over.

I’ve often told my clients that a healthy lifestyle is your best tool for success. I still believe that. I’d like to share some tips that I’ll be using to get back on track. I hope you’ll join me.

1)      HYDRATE- I’m not talking about ten cups of coffee or a liter of Diet Coke. I mean good old fashioned water. A good rule is to take your weight, divide by three, and that’s how many ounces per day of water you need to drink to stay properly hydrated. (Ie: A 150 pound person should consume 50 ounces of water per day). ** Fill a large water bottle first thing in the morning and drink it throughout the day, refilling as necessary to meet your daily ounce count. Feel free to add a slice of lemon. You’ll find you have more energy, you’re less hungry, and you’ll suffer fewer headaches, leg cramps, and muscle aches if you are hydrated. Trust me; your body will thank you!

2)      BANISH THE BREAD!-No not that!!!-White breads in particular break down into simple sugars very quickly. If you are sedentary, all that sugar gets stored as fat for later. But in this line of work, later never seems to come. Avoid white, starchy foods altogether. Switch from white potatoes to sweet potatoes, white rice to brown rice, and stock up on quinoa, cous cous, beans/legumes, and taboule, adding these complex whole grains and protein/fiber rich foods to salads or serving them as side dishes. Now most of us have already switched to “whole grain” breads, but if you read the label on your bread, you’ll likely find high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and a host of other additives and preservatives. **Try Ezekiel 4:9 Bread. You can find it in the refrigerator section of your grocer or local health food store. It has no flour! Instead it’s made from sprouted live grains like wheat, barley, millet, lentils, soybeans and spelt. It packs a whopping 4grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and is sugar free and fat free, and only 80 calories per slice. It tastes great, too!

3)      WALKING MEDITATION-Meditating is one of the healthiest and most difficult practices to cultivate. Most of us can’t sit still and empty our minds for ten seconds, let alone twenty minutes. But just twenty minutes a day of meditation can be life changing. It reduces your stress level, improves your immune system, and has so many health benefits I couldn’t possibly list them all here. Ironically, twenty minutes of walking daily does much the same thing. Imagine if you combine them! I’m all for multi-tasking, even when it comes to taking time to BE PRESENT! **Take a twenty minute walk daily. It doesn’t matter what time of day or even if you break it up into two ten minute walks, but do it—every day. While you’re walking think about your breathing. Feel each heel strike. Notice your arms swinging at your sides. Be aware of your posture, tuning in your abdomen and keeping your shoulders back. This conscious awareness of your body is as much a meditation as sitting cross-legged on a mat.

4)      STRETCH-I suggest frequent stretch breaks throughout the day. If you join a yoga class and go 2-3 times a week, maybe this isn’t as important, but if you are sitting at your computer for several hours a day, it’s beneficial and takes no time at all to stop for a few minutes every hour and stretch. If you don’t know what stretches to do or have some physical limitations that prevent you from exercising, seek advice from a physical therapist or qualified trainer.IMAG0098

5)      START WITH PROTEIN and FIBER-Starting your day with carbohydrates sets you up for blood sugar spikes and dips that will have you craving a candy bar before noon. Skip the bagel or the cold cereal and opt instead for an egg white omelet with veggies or a bowl of oatmeal or multigrain hot cereal with nuts, cinnamon, and fruit. (Cinnamon is a natural anti-inflammatory). Loading your breakfast with high protein, high fiber and nutrient packed foods will keep your blood sugar levels balanced and help curb cravings. A handful of nuts or a high protein yogurt (Greek yogurt is yummy and packs about 15 grams of protein) for your mid-morning or late afternoon snack will keep you from binging at meal times.

6)      VITAMINS-Due to soil depletion, over processing of foods, and our generally poor diets, most of us are vitamin deficient and don’t know it. Fatigue, weight gain, inability to concentrate, skin conditions, joint pains, neurological symptoms…you name it, vitamin deficiencies could be the cause. A daily multi-vitamin is a must and some people could benefit from other supplements depending on your individual needs. You may have to see a nutritionist or Naturopath to address this issue. Ask your doctor if he/she can perform a blood panel to screen for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Many women in particular are lacking in Vitamin D, which can lead to a whole host of ailments including porous bones and hair loss…eeek! It’s worth a blood test.

7)      STRENGTHEN YOUR MIND AND BODY-Lifting light weights, swimming, yoga, cycling, or even dancing around your house with the vacuum cleaner are all ways to burn calories and strengthen your core (the muscles of your trunk that offer a stable center for your extremities to work from.) In addition to strengthening muscles and improving your posture and balance, regular exercise strengthens your heart, releases endorphins that ease pain, and improves your mental attitude/mood. When you feel strong, you are more confident. If you need another convincing tid-bit, lean muscle mass burns calories more efficiently and your clothes fit better.IMAG0091

8)      AFFIRMATIONS-I’m a consummate goal setter. Not that I achieve all of my goals, mind you, but I make them, check in on them now and then, and adjust the plan accordingly. What I do know about goal setting is that I have to be able to imagine the desired outcome before I can make it a reality. I have to believe I can achieve it, and then I have to speak it into existence by making choices that lead me in the direction of achieving my goal. Affirmations are those positive messages that I speak to make my goals come to fruition. **Start every writing session with an affirmation. Ie: “I am an excellent writer. I am a bestselling author,” etc. Start every workout with an affirmation. Ie: “I am lean, healthy, and strong. I look awesome in size eight jeans”…you get the picture. See it, believe it is possible, and speak it into existence as if it is already the reality. Over time, your brain has no choice but to comply by making it so, and eventually your body will catch on.

9)      RELATIONSHIPS-“No man (or woman) is an Island.” Or so the saying goes. I don’t know about you, but I would be nowhere without the help and friendship of other writers, friends, family, and especially my dear husband. It’s easy to become isolated when so many of our hours are spent behind a computer screen. Connecting with and showing appreciation for the people in my life is something I don’t ever want to put off until tomorrow. There comes a time in every life when tomorrow won’t come for us or a loved one. **Don’t let a day go by without showing the people in your life how much they mean to you.

10)  GRATITUDE THROUGH KINDNESS-I’m a big believer in random acts of kindness. Nothing gets you out of your own head and gives you a lift as much as showing your gratitude for all that you have in your life by paying it forward. It’s much easier to see the good in your life when you recognize a need and fill it in someone else’s life. Volunteer, reach out to help someone in need, donate your time or money to a worthy cause. Get involved. We are all intricately connected in this world and there is no reason why any of us should feel alone.

Any other tips you want to share?

Blessings in the New Year,



22 thoughts on “PJ’s Top 10 Health Tips for 2013”

  1. Yesterday I recommitted to healthy eating and exercising, so why am I not surprised that your post today is about that very thing? 🙂 When I got on the scale, I was thrilled to see that the damage done over the holidays was not nearly as bad as I had feared. In fact, it was only a couple of pounds, not the 10 I was expecting. I pulled out my old Weight Watchers materials, bought a pretty new notebook and a cool purple pen (oooh, trip to Staples!), and made good choices all day. I also took a 2 mile brisk walk around the neighborhood while listening to an audio book (Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks). I had points left over, so when I got home I rewarded myself with 3 dark chocolate Hershey’s kisses. I highly recommend Weight Watchers. I love the idea of really thinking about what I’m eating, and the physical act of writing everything down reinforces good decision making. Today on my lunch break I’m going to walk to the local CVS instead of driving over. I’ve discovered that a can of V8 makes a filling snack (3 g of fiber!); it takes a while to drink (takes even longer if you heat it up and eat it with a spoon like veg soup), so is quite satisfying. Ditto with almonds (14 is 2 WW points) and Greek yogurt–I keep hoping that John Stamos is going to appear whenever I eat it! I can’t control other people, or whether someone wants to represent my book, or buy it, but I sure as heck can control what I put in my mouth and whether I move my body. Thanks for a wonderful post, PJ!

  2. At the beginning of 2012, I came out of a haze of depression that plagued me for a few years, and discovered that I had gained 30 pounds!! I was shocked. I mean, in my twenties I was SO active and played tennis, did yoga, hiked these crazy hikes… and after just a couple years, my body is just not the same. My metabolism completely changed. I used to be able to pack away five Krispy Kremes in a sitting because they would just disappear–now, HA! I worry about eating one (man, I haven’t had a donut since July, I think!). I didn’t want to conquer the weight right away after my depression, because I wanted to focus on moving forward with life, but I think the time has come to take control again! Getting the family involved makes it a much more fun experience. And balance is key. I’d rather lose it more slowly and have it stay off than lose it in a month and then in six month have it come back with some friends!

    1. Totally agree, Melanie. A balanced approach is key to long lasting change. Just switching from sugar to agave nectar in your tea or coffee is a simple, effective thing you can do to make a good choice to your daily health goals. I’m so happy that you are coming out of your funk and back to life. Hugs!!!!

  3. Great article, just what authors need to read to motivate themselves. I agree with everything, with one tiny exception, which is having multigrain cereal in the morning, for the very reason you’re cutting out bread. Stick with oatmeal if you want a cereal. 🙂

    I do women’s fitness bootcamp three times a week, and often run on another day or two, mostly because it’s hard to motivate myself to consistently work out alone. I like the idea of a walking meditation. I’ll have to try that.

    This year, I made it a goal to NOT gain weight during the holidays because last year it was so much harder to get it off then it had been previously. I managed to do that. Yay!

    An additional tip: add some coconut oil to your diet. I put it in green tea (another good tip.) I also use a juicer, which makes it easier to get in more fruits and veggies.

    1. Thanks for all the great tips, Debra. I’m planning to add the coconut oil as well. Hodgson Mill makes a multi-grain cereal made with milled flax seed and soy that has such benefits as 450 mg of Omega 3’s, 7 grams protein, and 6 grams of fiber. It also has a fabulous recipe for Fiber Rich muffins on the back, which I make in tiny muffin tins and freeze for a quick breakfast on the road. 15 seconds in the microwave and I’ve got a mini muffin packed with protein and fiber….so yummy!

  4. I’m a day late reading this, but it’s awesome. I’m going to bookmark it so I read it every couple months for a reminder! I’m doing pretty good on the exercise, but bread and sugar are my downfalls. Lent is coming soon, and I give up ALL sweets and adding salt to my food (salt is my other weakness), so I’m hoping for a jump start with that.

    1. Excellent, Stacey. Sodium is a big problem for industrialized nations who now rely heavily on packaged foods which require lots of additives and preservatives to enhance flavor and lengthen shelf life. It means that not only are we getting a ton of it in our food (just about anything canned, packaged or processed has high levels of sodium). Unfortunately all that sodium wreaks havoc with blood pressure and worse, it leaches calcium out of our bones, increasing the incidents of osteoporosis. Definitely nix adding salt. It takes a little while, but your taste buds will adjust and your heart and bones will thank you:-)

      As for the sugar, I mentioned in another comment above that agave nectar is an excellent substitute. It really has no flavor and you don’t need much (1/2 tsp. is plenty) to sweeten your tea or coffee. It’s lower on the glycemic index than other sugars and is “unrefined”, so it has kept its natural state. Artificial sweeteners like Splenda have not been shown to reduce weight and our bodies aren’t quite sure how to process these “man made” sugars (Splenda is made from sugar, but has been altered to remove a molecule or two so that it has no caloric load). Stevia is another plant-based sweetener that is a good alternative, but some folks think it has a bit of an after taste.

      Good luck with making those changes, Stacey!

      1. Well, I quit using sugar in my tea and instead use Truvia and honey. I haven’t tried the agave nectar yet. My sister uses it. Would you suggest that over honey? (I like the flavor it adds to my tea) Yeah, I read up on Splenda and got my mom to stop using it, too. I’ve done the give up salt for 3 years now, 40 days straight during Lent, but come that first day after, I can avoid the sweets, but salt I want instantly. That’s the really hard one for me.

  5. I love this! After many surgeries my body has sort of slumped. Hours sitting hammering out the next best seller (mwahaha) has taken its toll. Like you, I’m a fitness freak. I notice a few pounds. What’s happened to discipline and working out? I’ve cut out sugar, fat and am munching on carrots (full of sugar, who knew?). But it’s the age thing too. I need to get out of the chair and move and stretch.

    We’ve started doing three kilometre hikes four times a week – outside, not on treadmills – and that’s helping a lot. But social networking can eat up hours too. It’s interesting how salt can replace sugar in our palate – I’m like that too. But I think we need some sort of oil to wean our bodies off fat.

    Debra Holland’s advice is excellent – if we’re not eating bread then eat a small amount of grains. When I don’t do this I binge. The key is to exercise and eat properly before going on line. And to make sure we take exercise breaks.

    Love this post, PJ. One day I’ll find the holy grail.

    1. Thanks CC. I totally hear you about the influence of age. It seems I gain weight faster these days and it takes me working out twice as hard while eating half as much to see results. Ugggh! The Holy Grail, indeed. We’d all love that magic pill. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your plan. I love the hiking idea. Need to do more of that myself. Nothing like fresh air and exercise to raise your spirits and your metabolism.

  6. Paula, you are always on target. I finally got that “thing” under control. The Manga Monster…I am on my program fully and it feels so good. Also, walking is fantastic exercise. Moderate walking. At least three times a week, thirty minutes. It is the consistency that is critical. I know you know to stretch before and after, it saves your back. Thanks for a great post.

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