Friday, August 23, 2013

Fitness Fibs To Be Aware Of

Not all fitness facts are true. Some are fibs instead.
Not all fitness facts are true. Some are fibs instead.
Image: Shutterstock

Like anything else, the fitness world is full of myths, so-called “facts” that have been deemed true simply because people say they’re true. But we all know that’s not really how the world works. As much as I want to believe that unicorns and fairies exist, that doesn’t mean it’s actually true. I’m still holding out hope, but I’m not placing any bets.

Fitness fibs abound. They’re everywhere, and they often sound so logical that we might not feel the need to check before we pass the information off as true. Unfortunately, that’s just the kind of thinking that leads to the survival of these fibs.

Fib #1: Targeted fat burn. You can’t target specific areas for fat burn. You can target muscle groups for toning, sure, but for fat burn—tough luck. Working out reduces your overall body fat, but you can’t just choose “ankle fat” or “belly fat” to target.

Fib #2: No pain, no gain. Please, please, PLEASE don’t believe this one. Please. While working out can come with discomfort, it shouldn’t be accompanied by sharp pains. It can be a delicate balance, but it’s a vital one to keep. If you push yourself toward more pain, you’ll likely end up hurting yourself—and some injuries truly can last a lifetime. Challenge yourself, but don’t overdo it.

Fib #3: Heavier weights = bulky muscles. Sorry kids, but that’s not necessarily true. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that women who lifted lighter weights with 15 reps burned fewer calories than those who lifted more challenging weights for 8 reps. That means that while your muscles will be toning, you could actually be slimming down overall.

  Not all fitness facts are true. Some are fibs instead.  Not all fitness facts are true. Some are fibs instead.  Image: Shutterstock
Treadmills don't work your body as hard as outdoor running does.
Image: Shutterstock
Fib #4: All running was created equally. So not true. Have you ever compared how hard it is to run outside versus a treadmill? Uneven terrain—AKA rocks, dips, hills, corners, and more—makes you engage more muscles, use up more energy, and burn more calories than you would on a treadmill.

Fib #5: Free weights aren’t as good as machines. Actually, free weights can work your body harder than machines, since machines are designed to only work certain muscle groups. Free weights, on the other hand, often require better form, balance, and a full-body workout. Plus, lots of exercise machines were made for men—that means they’re harder for a lot of women to use with good form.

What other fitness fibs are you aware of? Let’s get the story straight once and for all—share your knowledge in the comments!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In the Kitchen: Healthy Substitutions

Swap melted butter for applesauce.
Swap melted butter for applesauce.
These days, everyone knows that if you want to get fit and healthy, you’ve got to eat clean. For some (AKA the Super Fit), that means very few exceptions to the no-grain, no-sugar, no-whatever they’ve committed to. But for the Regular Joes (and Jills) of the world, eating clean likely comes down to a general habit of choosing healthier foods than we would have before.

A great example for me is pasta. I love it, and I hate it. I used to eat it way too much. These days, I eat pasta rarely, often substituting other things in its place—such as spaghetti squash, zucchini, and quinoa. When it comes down to it, pasta is really just a vehicle to get to the sauce, right? It doesn’t have much flavor, so substituting it isn’t difficult.

Eating healthier really comes down to making these healthy substitutions, at least for me. Here are some suggestions for those of you who are looking to gradually change your lifestyle without totally switching up your diet.
Use walnuts in place of croutons.
Use walnuts in place of croutons.
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Swap out melted butter for canola oil or applesauce. For softened butter, try avocado!
  2. Mayonnaise may be delicious, but it’s certainly not healthy. Instead, use avocado or fresh pesto basil spread. These will enhance your sandwich or salad with a healthier, yet still delicious, flavor.
  3. Salt. Most people could do with far less of it. Instead of using the full amount of salt in recipes, try cutting back on it and adding more of other spices or herbs in its place. You’d be surprised how quickly your palate will adjust to less salt—and your body will thank you for it.
  4. Croutons are loveable, certainly. But they’re not exactly full of nutrients. To get that crunch in salads, instead try adding your favorite nut. Walnuts are wonderful, especially if you toast them just a little bit.
  5. Breadcrumbs are another of those things that are merely there to create a texture or transfer a flavor. The great thing is, they don’t have to be bread to do that. Instead, use food-processed rolled oats or almond meal.
  6. All-purpose flour. If you live in Seattle, at least, you may have noticed that when you go down the flour aisle at the grocery store, there are literally dozens of types to choose from. They certainly won’t all work for every purpose, but check out some of these alternative flours for baking and cooking. My favorite substitutes are almond flour and whole-wheat flour. If you don’t like the chewiness that comes with whole-wheat flour, try white whole-wheat flour. 
  7. White rice is perhaps the easiest substitution to make—there are just so many options! You can use brown or wild rice instead, but my favorite is quinoa. It’s super healthy and super delicious. It’s a little pricey, but I’ll give you a hint: they sell it in bulk at Costco.
  8. Tomato sauce is SO full of sodium that it’s terrifying. Have you ever checked the back label of one of those cans? When I’m making spaghetti sauce, I always use crushed tomatoes instead. They have far less sodium, and the ingredients list consists of 2-3 items: crushed tomatoes, water, and (sometimes) salt.
Quinoa is a great sub for rice.
Quinoa is a great sub for rice.
Image: Shutterstock
What are some other healthy substitutions that you all make in your foods?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Corporate Gym Memberships Promote Wellness

More companies are encouraging employees to get healthy.
More companies are encouraging employees to get healthy.
Image: Shutterstock

Have you ever heard of something called a corporate gym membership? I hadn’t either, until recently. And now that I am, I’m honestly super impressed.

I’m not a member of a gym, per se (instead I pay for a membership to a yoga studio), but I used to be. Gym memberships can range in price from quite inexpensive ($25 per month) to a little too much for my tastes ($100+). While I like having a membership—the option to use machines at the gym, a pool to swim in when I want, a hot tub or sauna to use—I am terrible at making it there to use it. And when I’m only going a few times a month, it’s not really worth the money.

Today I got in a conversation with a co-worker and she brought up corporate gym memberships, which I had never heard of. Apparently, gyms across the country offer deals to companies who want to invest in their employees’ health. The employer pays a certain amount to be a corporate gym member, and employees pay a fraction of what it would normally cost to partake.

Perhaps I’m just getting excited over something everyone else already knew about—and if that’s the case, oh well. This is my blog, so you can deal with it! I just find it inspiring that employers are actually taking the initiative in some cases and actively trying to get their employees to be healthier.

Healthier employees means the possibility of more affordable healthcare, for both employees and employers. Staying fit and active also helps relieve stress, prevent health problems, and strengthen our immune systems, so employees will likely miss fewer days of work. And, since those who are physically active get that nice endorphin boost, that means happier and more productive work. Plus, team members might even spend some time bonding at the gym.

It makes sense, but I guess I didn’t think that many companies would be willing to invest in a program that doesn’t directly tie into revenue. I had heard of some companies that encourage employees to be more active in their health, but I assumed that they were in the minority.

Big gyms like Gold’s, 24-Hour Fitness, Fitness First, Life Time Fitness, Curves, and LA Fitness all have corporate gym membership options. If these big gyms are offering it, then there must be some demand from companies—meaning that I was wrong and more businesses are encouraging employees to hit the gym after work.

Have you all heard of corporate gym memberships? Or perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who’ve actually partaken? What do you think of programs like this? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Beauty Spotlight: Lemons

Lemon can help skin, hair, teeth, and more.
Lemon can help skin, hair, teeth, and more.
Image: Shutterstock
 I’m always looking for ways to incorporate natural ingredients into my beauty regime (not that it’s much of a regime, per se). For some reason, the thought of using nature’s pure ingredients to boost beauty appeals a heck of a lot more than buying some product with 5,000 ingredients that I can’t even begin to pronounce. Call me crazy, but that’s just how I feel.

We’ve already talked about the incredible benefits olive oil has for your skin. Now let’s get down and dirty with another natural ingredient: lemons! Besides cooking with lemon, you can also use it on your skin, teeth, and more. So, how does it all work? Check it out:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Facebook Funk

Facebook got you in a funk? You're not alone.
1000 Words /

Feeling a like you’re in a funk lately? New research points to Facebook as a potential instigator of the blues. A study out of the University of Michigan claims that the more time people spend on the social network, the worse they feel about their own lives—no matter how supportive or large their network is.

After just two weeks of using Facebook, the funk set in. Moods grew more morose as minutes ticked by. “We were able to show on a moment-to-moment basis throughout the day how people’s moods fluctuated depending on their Facebook usage,” said Ethan Kross, who is the social psychologist who led the project.

Facebook can decrease feelings of well-being.
Image: Shutterstock

Kross’s study certainly isn’t the first to indicate that drumming away on social media can darken moods quickly. But if you work hard to make sure your network is filled with supportive family and friends that you can be more involved with at the click of a “Like” button, how can that be harmful?

We can gain self-affirmation by looking at our own profiles, but let’s be honest—how often do we actually do that? I know I only take a quick gander when I’m looking for a particular post someone left or checking up to see whether I remembered to post something. Far more of my time—and yours, I’m betting—is spent looking at others’ profiles and our news feed.

It feels good to be engaged with others, even if they’re far away, and some studies suggest that networks like Facebook actually increase life satisfaction. But other studies look at the darker side of social media, the one that leaves us feeling less satisfied, worse about ourselves, and not so great about our lives.

Kross’s study was the first to look at usage of Facebook over time. The end result suggested that online communication and face-to-face interaction have a linear relationship. As the two increased, the feeling of well-being decreased, leaving users feeling worse off.

“The negative effect of Facebook use on happiness became more pronounced the more you interacted with other people within that time frame,” said Kross. “It’s very likely that there are going to be a multitude of mechanisms that explain this effect.” Basically, more research still needs to be done.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced the Facebook Funk? Or does using the social network uplift your mood and increase your satisfaction? Me? I’m an everything in moderation kind of gal.

Monday, August 12, 2013

5 Crazy Spa Treatments

Traditional spa treatments include facials and massage.
Traditional spa treatments include facials and massage.
Image: Shutterstock

Spas seem like neat places; I’m not overly informed on the subject though, considering I mostly see them as places to go in the future, when I’m rich (of course). I think of manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, saunas and aromatherapy when I imagine spa treatments. I do not think of lava shells, getting muddy, burning sticks, suction cups, or scratching myself with a tree. 

But apparently those all have their part to play when it comes to spas. Check out these 5 crazy spa treatments.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Yoga For Eating Disorders: An Amazing Mission

Yoga gives an incredible sense of empowerment, of fulfillment.
Yoga gives an incredible sense of empowerment, of fulfillment.
Image: Shutterstock
Eating disorders and yoga are two things I’ve talked about here at Sunshine and a Daisy. There are an estimated 24 million Americans who suffer from an eating disorder, but only about ten percent of those will ever receive treatment. Anorexia kills about half a million people every single year, making it the most deadly mental illness. Most of us know someone who has, or has had an eating disorder—whether we know it or not.

I’ve talked about yoga as a way to get in shape, to relax, to rid myself of stress, and to feel empowered. I’ve never thought about it as a way to combat eating disorders. The thought seems a little illogical, considering the fact that those with eating disorders need to bring in more calories, not burn them off.

But yoga isn’t about burning the calories off, not really. One of my yoga instructors put it succinctly during my second or third class when she was talking about having strength, resolve and balance in life. She said, “You may have come here thinking that yoga was just a way to get those nice abs. But now that you’re here, it’s a whole different ball game.” And she was right; it really is a whole different ball game now.

Chelsea Roff is leading the "Yoga For Eating Disorders" campaign.
Chelsea Roff is leading the "Yoga For Eating Disorders" campaign.
Image: Chelsea Roff / Indiegogo
So when I read Chelsea Roff’s story, I was completely inspired. When she was 15, Roff suffered a stroke caused by severe anorexia. At 58 pounds, she was placed under the custodianship of a hospital, where she lived and recovered for nearly a year and a half. Her therapist encouraged her to try yoga and she did.

“I was still significantly underweight and terrified of people, but I went…” Roff writes, “only to discover a practice (and community) that changed my life. I went from surviving to thriving; from living half a life to experiencing joy and freedom I never imagined possible.”

Six years later, she has developed a program that she hopes to be able to deliver all across the country to others struggling with eating disorders for free. “I used to believe no one recovered from an eating disorder,” she said. “Every person I knew who had struggled with this disease was still struggling, recovering seemed hopeless and impossible. But now I know: Freedom is possible. Joy is possible. There is a way out of this illness, and yoga is an incredible tool in paving the path to healing.”

Chelsea Roff has partnered up with the Give Back Yoga Foundation for her project, which is currently active on The program is a three-day workshop that will, hopefully, be offered all over the country for no charge. With full funding, Roff also hopes to gather evidence-based research data on the effectiveness of yoga as a treatment for eating disorders, as well as offer pro-bono talks to local schools and community organizations where the program is being offered.

Now that’s a dang good cause if I’ve ever heard of one.

Looking for a cause? Support Roff's campaign.
Looking for a cause? Support Roff's campaign.
Image: Chelsea Roff / Indiegogo

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why A Mental Health Day Is Okay

When stress stacks up, it's time for a mental health day.
When stress stacks up, it's time for a mental health day.
Image: Shutterstock
I’m lucky enough that my current job is one that I don’t mind waking up and going to each morning during the week. It wasn’t always that way, so I’m grateful each day for being able to do something I love. But even working in a world where I get to do things I like every day can be stressful at times. Projects come in, sometimes piling up so high that there seems to be no end in sight. Some weeks, emotions run high, and just being in the office can be enough to add extra stress. Sometimes, I just need a mental health day.

To be clear, I’m one of those people that almost never takes a sick day. Other than pre-scheduled days off, if I’m not in, it’s usually because I either a) literally can’t function, or b) am being forced to stay home by my significant other. But I’m beginning to realize that for me to stay motivated, sometimes I need to take an extra day for me. Sometimes, the relaxation time I need to stay focused doesn’t fit into that neat little Saturday-Sunday slot. And that’s 100% okay.

This year especially, I’ve started paying more attention to my body. The messages it sends me inform when I need a mental health day.

When I’m still stressed out from last week on Monday, it’s usually a good sign that I need a little more down time. On these days, I often work from home, leave work a few hours early, or go in a little later than normal. If I’m really stressed, I’ll take the day off completely.

Spend mental health days relaxing, NOT working!
Spend mental health days relaxing, NOT working!
Image: Shutterstock
If I am feeling particularly snippy around home or in the office, I need to take a breather. Taking the day off to relax, accomplish some items on an overflowing to-do list, and find tranquility in the ways I know best, is usually all I need to perk right back up.

Like I said, I love my job. But some days, it doesn’t feel like it. I’m lethargic, apathetic, and have a generally pessimistic view of whatever I’m working on. Perhaps I’m feeling anxious or overly sensitive. I’m watching the clock, and each minute is ticking by excruciatingly slowly. I want to be anywhere but at work, and perhaps it would be best for everyone if I weren’t. 

 Asking for these days off might be tricky for some. My boss knows that the work we do gets stressful sometimes, and she is a big proponent of mental health days when we need them—as long as we’re not taking them all the time. It’s a rarity to be enjoyed every once in a while. But other bosses might be a little more sensitive, so keep that in mind. Don’t lie; simply tell him or her that you need a personal day.

If you can, try and schedule your day in advance, ensuring that there will be no fires for coworkers to put out while you are gone. Plus, then it gives you something to look forward to for a few days. While you are off, take time to relax, catching up on extra sleep, doing something you love, and limiting how much work you do.

Taking good care of your body isn’t always just about eating right and exercising; it’s about mental health, too. Our brains are muscles, and just like they need to be worked out, they also need to get some rest time in. Trust me, allowing yourself the leeway of a mental health day here and there will be better for everyone.

I love reading and spending time with my dog. I’m always working on a creative writing project, so mental health days generally include some work on that. What would you do with a mental health day? Tell me what makes you happiest in the world.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sweet Potato Lovin’

It is almost impossible for me to say "no" to a plate of  sweet potato or yam fries.
It is almost impossible for me to say "no" to a plate of
sweet potato or yam fries. Seriously. All of my self control.
Image: Shutterstock
Is there a food out there that you are in love with? I’m not talking about a food you simply “like a lot” or “enjoy.” Oh no, I’m talking about straight-up food love. Addiction. Obsession. Whatever you want to call it, the symptoms are specific: you can’t get enough of it, almost never say “no,” and have to play down your excitement about it to keep others from thinking you’re crazy.

For me, that food is sweet potatoes. And oh how sweet they are! I love sweet potatoes. I don’t think I’ve ever not enjoyed sweet potatoes in a meal—and if I didn’t like the meal, well, it was probably another food’s fault.

I can hardly believe how fast the summer is going—can you believe it’s August already? Soon enough, we’ll be into September and October. Fall is coming, and with it will come the cooler air and cravings for warm and hearty meals. For me, that means oh so many wonderful ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into my diet.

Sweet potatoes have 438% of your daily value of Vitamin A and contains lots of beta carotene for protecting that beautiful skin of yours. The average sweet potato has 28% more potassium than a banana. Oh yeah, and they’re low in calories, too! If you love sweet potatoes as much as I do, then I hope you can make good use of this “sweet” list of simple recipe ideas. Check it out:

Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges? Yes, please!
Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges? Yes, please!
Image: Shutterstock
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad—Lay out a bed of your favorite greens (I prefer spinach, arugula, or a kale mix) and top it with roasted sweet potatoes and bell peppers, goat cheese, and a balsamic dressing.

Gingered Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup—Easy peasy lemon squeezie! Just sauté a chopped onion until it begins to soften, then add vegetable stock, sweet potato, carrot, and ginger. Cook for about 15 minutes, then strain out the veggies, puree, and add broth for desired thickness.

Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges—Make some home-style fries the sweet way—with sweet potatoes and rosemary! Just chop your sweet potato into wedges, mix together rosemary and melted butter, and spread over the wedges with salt and pepper to taste. Then, bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes.

If you want to see some more recipes or see the ones above in their entirety, check out this great article by Women’s Health Mag. Test them out and let me know what you think!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Chill Out: Great Summertime Foods

Summertime! That means sun, sun, sun!
Summertime! That means sun, sun, sun!
Image: Shutterstock

It’s summer. I hope that you’ve already realized that significant fact, but if you hadn’t, at least now you know for sure: it is, in fact, summer. For many, summertime means a rise in temperature and the un-hibernation of shorts, tank tops, and dresses to compensate for more sun.

Like the change in clothing, there are also some changes you can make to your diet to help compensate for the heat. Foods that are rich in water will help your body stay hydrated and cool. Consider these five foods:
  1. Watermelon: With a water percentage of up to 92%, this sweet treat is bound to keep you cool. Some research has even suggested that watermelon may be even more hydrating than a glass of water, since its natural sugars, calcium, potassium, and sodium help replace electrolytes in the body. 
  2. Cucumbers: Believe it or not, cucumbers contain even more water than watermelon. At 96% water, they are crisp and cool, and include vitamins C and K to help replenish your body.
  3. Celery: Also 96% water, celery is a good source for sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. Like cucumbers, the nutrients in celery help carry the water content efficiently throughout your body, hydrating you more than drinking twice the amount of water would.
  4. Tomatoes: 94% water doesn’t mean they’re not full of nutrients. Tomatoes are incredibly good for your health, and are thought to reduce the risk for heart disease and cancer. They are also full of the antioxidant lycopene.
  5. Spicy Food: Wait, hot food to cool down? It may seem counterintuitive, but spicy foods also help flush your skin, creating a surge of blood that, once dissipated, will make you feel cooler. Pretty cool, huh?
  6. Watermelon is 92% water and helps replace electrolytes.
    Watermelon is 92% water and helps replace electrolytes.
    Image: Shutterstock
  7. Coconut Water: Another reason to drink coconut water! Like I discussed before, coconut water is now being used as a sports drink replacement since it helps replace carbs and electrolytes used up during exercise. Plus, it’s free of fat and cholesterol and is potassium-rich.

What are some of your favorite water-rich summertime treats? Share in the comments below!