Thursday, February 27, 2014

Yoga for Everyone: How Practicing Yoga Encourages Success

Step away from the computer and do some yoga.
Step away from the computer and do some yoga.
Image: Shutterstock
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, or even just my social media, you know that I love me some yoga. I love the challenge, the fact that I can feel my body getting stronger, the sweat that tells me how hard I’m working, and the clear and stress-free mind I have after a good class. I often find myself looking at yogis who have obviously been practicing for awhile and wondering where they started and what prompted them to begin practicing. Though I don’t know the answers to those questions, I am inspired by these incredibly dedicated individuals.

Yoga is one of those things that has the same powerful benefits to everyone, regardless of social status, celebrity, career success, or anything else. It’s one of those things that puts us all on the same level—the human level. How can you not love that? Here are some majorly successful businesspeople that say yoga or meditation has benefitted their careers and health:

The Dalai Lama was recently on a web panel with Daniel Loeb, who is a well-known activist investor. Just a few months after launching his business, Third Point, Loeb traveled to India for a month to study yoga with Ashanta yoga master Pattabhi Jois. The experience rooted in him a “lifelong passion for spirituality, for contemplation, meditation,” said Loeb during the panel.

“Contemplation, meditation—It’s not for monks and hermits,” Daniel Loeb says. “I think they can really improve all of our lives and they can really improve us as business people as well.” He adds that the practice allows for greater creativity, clarity, and better decision-making.

Edwin Catmull, the president of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios, practices yoga and mediation as well. In 2011, Catmull went on a retreat for Buddhist meditation and yoga in Colorado, and says that practicing meditation helps him train his mind to focus in what is a very demanding career.

“When things are intense… I have no trouble focusing,” he said. “But when they’re not intense, my brain starts popping off in all sorts of places.”

Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, was also a yogi for many years. He studied Eastern philosophy and meditation heavily and also went on a spiritual pilgrimage to India in 1974.

Other successful businesspeople who practice yoga or meditation include hedge fund manager Ray Dalio, CEO of Dalio; Mark Benioff of; Panda Express founder Andrew Cherng; and Bob Shapiro, former Monsanto CEO.

“I want to fix my people from the inside,” said Cherng.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Feeling Moody? It Might Be Hormones. Let’s Get Those Babies Under Control.

We all have good days and bad days. Sometimes, you just wake up in the morning ready for anything; other times, you wake up and just want to stay in bed. What’s the reason? Certain life situations may alter our general outlook on life, but sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason why we’re feeling moody.

The truth is, it might be hormones.

While we tend to experience the greatest hormonal imbalances during puberty, the end of our teen years doesn’t mark the end of those shifts. As adults, there are plenty of dirty little habits we can fall into, all of which can cause our hormones to get out of whack, causing that unwanted moodiness.

For example, foods with lots of added sugar, like oh, I don’t know, chocolate bars, not only help us put on a few pounds—but when eaten too often, they also increase our bodies’ resistance to insulin, make it harder for our cells to get enough energy, and put us at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Not giving yourself time to relax before bed can also cause hormonal imbalances. Levels of stress hormone cortisol naturally drop just before we get some shuteye, but working late at night increases stress—and cortisol levels. Cortisol also pushes our blood sugar levels up, making us crave more junk food. The overall result is that it becomes more difficult to sleep well and eat healthy, and our stress levels stay sky high.

Late afternoon coffee runs may sound like a great idea to get you through the day, but take a moment to consider whether or not you really need the boost. While caffeine gives us extra energy, it also boosts cortisol levels, making it (again) harder to sleep and inducing anxiety. Try to get your two cups in before 3 p.m. to avoid messing with your body’s natural cycle.

As tired as you may feel after a long day at work, chances are that if you start going to the gym regularly, you’ll have a lot more energy. Without regular exercise, our bodies don’t get critically important endorphins, those lovely mood-and-energy-boosting chemicals in the brain. Endorphins also help our immune systems stay strong.

In short, try and skimp on sugar, relax before bed, get enough sleep, don’t overdo it on the Starbucks, and get regular exercise! It’s simple enough, though that doesn’t mean it will be easy. But you’ll consistently feel better without hormones jumping all over the place.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

8 Signs You’re Iron Deficient

Are you iron deficient? Fatigue is one of the symptoms.
Are you iron deficient? Fatigue is one of the symptoms.
Image: Shutterstock
Did you know that about 9% of women are iron deficient? I’ve certainly found myself in this group of women at times—especially before I started cooking my own food. It’s easy to miss out on vital nutrients and not know it, even when the signs are staring you in the face.

Until someone suggested that I might be iron deficient, I just dismissed my extra feelings of fatigue to needing to get more sleep. My cold hands? It’s just the way they are, I’d say.

So, are you part of that 9%? Check in with your body to make sure you aren’t experiencing these symptoms:

Exhaustion—without iron, your body has a hard time making hemoglobin in your red blood cells, which is responsible for carrying oxygen. Lack of hemoglobin makes your red blood cells become unhealthy and oxygen deprived. Translation: you get really tired.

Breathlessness—without enough oxygen in the blood cells, your body gets tired faster and suddenly you’re gasping for air just trying to walk up a hill. Regular workouts become harder than normal, too.

Extra Pale Skin—that is, more pale than normal. I have very fair skin, but an iron deficiency and unhealthy red blood cells makes it even paler. Instead of looking vibrant and alive, I look washed out and ill.

Loss of Focus—neurotransmitter synthesis goes down, focus goes down. Bye-bye, productivity.

Apathy—caused by the same slow-down of neurotransmitter synthesis, it can be hard to feel excited about anything when you’re iron deficient.

So, So Sore Muscles—since our bodies need iron to properly help muscles recover after a workout, if you’re iron deficient you might notice that you are more sore than normal—and for longer.

Broken Nails—especially brittle fingernails and toenails, or ones with small depressions in them, can be signs of iron deficiency as well.

Sick Again—if you keep getting respiratory illnesses, the problem could be a lack of iron.

As always, take this list with a grain of salt. Each person’s situation is unique. If you’re only getting five hours of sleep per night, you really might just need some extra rest. If, however, you’re getting 8-9 hours of sleep and still waking up exhausted, it might be a good idea to check in with your doctor to see if you need more iron in your diet.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

17 Life Changing Choices I’ve Made as an Adult

When you say yes to others make sure you are not saying no to yourself
This is something that took me years to learn.
I never was one to make a lot of poor life choices, but that doesn’t mean I never made any. Being young has its advantages—like the ability to survive on three hours of sleep and still have enough energy to go to a concert the next night. But it also comes with disadvantages, like not fully understanding how to take care of ourselves. Adulthood hasn’t brought me all the answers, and I doubt it ever will. But it has brought me some clarity, and these days I find that my priorities have changed.

Now, I’m making choices that are better for my body, mind, and soul. For example, I used to constantly compare myself to others and my main goal in life was to make everyone else happy. I haven’t completely been able to banish the comparisons, but I’m more mindful about them now. And while I want everyone to be happy, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t always sacrifice my own happiness and well being to avoid disappointing others. In short, I am far more self-aware and I value myself so much more than I ever did before.

This shift didn’t just happen overnight—it was a long process and involved a lot of individual choices. Here are some of the choices I’ve made along the way:
Being happy and healthy means eating right.
Being happy and healthy means eating right.
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Finding a workout that I love and committing to it regularly.
  2. Drinking in moderation.
  3. Loving my body for all the hard work it does for me—whether or not I’ve got the perfect flat abs.
  4. Making “me” time.
  5. Making time for friends (apart from my significant other).
  6. Cooking healthy meals at home, regularly.
  7. Being mindful and calling myself out for ignoring what my body and mind need.
  8. Checking up on my health—doctor’s visits, breast checks, etc.
  9. Admitting when I need a mental health day and seeking help when I feel overwhelmed or depressed.
  10. Committing to living a healthy lifestyle rather than extreme dieting.
  11. Spending fewer hours in front of a screen. Reading, writing, or playing with the dog instead of watching another episode of “Friends.”
  12. Being OK with indulging—in moderation. One cookie is NOT something to feel bad about. Twenty cookies is a different story.
  13. Paying attention to what’s in my food, drinks, makeup, and even hair dye—and avoiding harmful chemicals.
  14. Staying home when I’m sick instead of suffering through the day (and making others miserable, too).
  15. Going outside at least once every day.
  16. Letting the little things go rather than allowing them to cause problems.
  17. Allowing myself to be a human being—I will make mistakes, and that is ok. Life is about finding balance, losing it, and then finding it again. Over and over.
What are some tough lessons you've learned or choices you've made as an adult? 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Choose to Love Yourself this Valentine’s Day

What do you choose to be?
What do you choose to be?

We choose to feel love, peace, happiness, tranquility. It’s a choice. Many times, it’s easier to make the opposite choice—choose to feel hate, anger, sadness, stress. Our lives demand a lot of us, and making that extra effort to overcome frustration and upset can often seem like too big of a barrier to overcome.

But it’s not. I promise you, it’s not.

We’re coming up on Valentine’s Day, Hallmark holiday that celebrates love—but perhaps moreso, the sale of chocolates, roses, and candy. Couples will enjoy fine dining lit by candles. Love songs will play on the radio. Stores will look like a Pepto Bismol factory exploded all over them. Lovebirds will smooch in the streets. Haters will hate, rolling their eyes at the entire affair.

But as overwhelming as all that can be, I think this holiday could be put to good use if we all tried just one thing: loving ourselves.

If we can’t do that, how can we ever truly love or receive love from others? Love is a completely vulnerable state—we lay ourselves bare from others, showing them all of us (not just the parts we like) and ask them to do the same.

Pulling away from that vulnerability, no matter how slightly, builds the foundation for a wall—one that will keep us from truly loving others and letting them in.

Love yourself.
Love yourself.
Image: Shutterstock
Loving ourselves isn’t something to achieve and then walk away from—it’s an active process and something that we should do every day. In an article for the Huffington Post, Mary Pritchard gives some great advice for loving yourself even if you have no idea where to start.

“Spend some time each day taking care of you, showing yourself love and appreciation for all you do,” she writes. “That is, do something that makes your soul sing—something just for you. Don’t take the kids with you. Don’t invite your significant other. This is YOU time.”

Choose to love yourself this Valentine’s Day. I promise, you won’t regret it.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Nose Knows: Detecting Fat in Food

Our bodies are amazing organisms. Did you know that our noses might actually b able to smell differences in dietary fat levels in foods—as in, we can smell which milk is skim, 2% and whole?

New research out of the Monell Chemical Sences Center recently conducted a small study, in which participants smelled different samples of milk and tried to distinguish between them. PLoS ONE published the study in January, which found that the participants really could distinguish the milk based on smell.

fat free ice cream
Can you smell the difference between full fat ice cream and fat-free? Lunström's study says yes.
Image: Shutterstock
How is that even possible? The study’s lead author, psychologist Johan Lunström, says that he believes it comes down to evolution. We “need energy to survive,” he says. And, back when we didn’t have those helpful nutritional charts available, “detecting fat would have been very valuable to us.”

Fat, though it’s gotten a bad reputation over the years, is actually an essential part of the human diet. We need energy to survive, and foods that are naturally fatty (like nuts and fresh milk) are perfect for sating that appetite. One reason I actually prefer whole milk over skim is because the fat keeps me feeling full longer—so even though it has more calories, I don’t get hungry again as soon.

The study isolated the fat in milk by using powdered milk, and all the samples had the same concentration of powder. “The only thing that these powders differed in was the amount of fat,” Lundström says. “Otherwise, the samples are identical.”  

Previous studies had found that humans could smell fatty acids in their purest form. Next, Lundström says he hopes to find out how we can smell the fat, if we can recognize it in more complex foods, and in what ways this ability affects human behavior.