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15 Simple Steps to Get Fit this Summer

By Latham Thomas ecomii.com
June 24, 2009
File under: exercise, Food, Green Activities, Health

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It’s official: Summer is in full swing. It’s hot outside and now is the perfect time to pull out your swim suit, sandals, and SPF 30 so you can go soak up some much needed vitamin D in the form of sunshine.

As we enjoy the season of trips, tans and the great outdoors, let’s look at some ways to tune-up and get our bodies looking and feeling great.

Below are some simple guidelines to help you to achieve the results you want, without having to drastically change your lifestyle or spend a lot of money doing it. With a bit of willpower and hard work, you can transform your body no matter what shape you’re in now. Don’t worry, no crash dieting or excessive workouts are required for this bikini body tune-up.

Need extra motivation?  These steps also guide you to a greener lifestyle, as practices that are healthier for you are often healthier for the environment. So you will not only feel better at the beach, but you can also take pride knowing you’re helping our environment.

1. Drink Water – Sounds simple enough, yet it’s so difficult for many of us. We learned back in grammar school that our bodies are composed of 55-60% water. We may carry our water bottles around town, but are we actually drinking any water?

Dehydration is so common and yet most of us have no idea we are dehydrated. If you don’t stay hydrated, your body won’t perform at peak levels. Since we are mostly composed of water, we need to replace water that is depleted from the body as well as give our body the water it needs to perform metabolic processes.

Boosting your water intake is going to help increase your metabolism! If you’re worried about excess “water weight,” remember you’re likely to retain more water (causing swelling in ankles, feet, hands, and face) when you’re not drinking adequate water. Remember the 8×8 rule- drink eight, 8oz glasses of water daily, (about 1.9 liters).

Get yourself a cute little water bottle and keep drinking. For a little flavor add some lemon or lime wedges.

Tip: Don’t waste your money on bottled water. Almost half of bottled water sold in the U.S. is actually drawn from the same source as tap water then filtered and sold back to consumers at more than 10,000 times the price. Instead, buy a $15 water filter and a reusable bottle and you’ll save money while reducing the 60 billion plastic bottles that go to landfills worldwide each year.

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2. Get your Greens In! – Eat more salads, cooked leafy greens. Upward reaching leafy veggies are blood builders and cleansing for the liver. Experience your greens in a variety of ways, interesting salads, sautéed, steamed, juiced.

Bulk up your fiber intake and have at least two salads daily. Add a variety of toppings to make your salads more substantial; beans, chopped veggies, etc. Greens help to regulate your blood sugar and will likely curb any cravings for sweets.

Want to show your body you really care? Avoid consuming the harmful pesticide residues found on conventionally grown crops by choosing organic when you buy produce. By spending a little extra on organic greens, you’ll enjoy better-tasting food, protect your body from toxins and promote sustainable farming methods, all at the same time. What a deal!

Can’t buy everything organic? Click here to learn which fruit and vegetable crops are the most contaminated.

3. Start a Support Circle – Identify your cheerleaders and supporters, your friends who really want to see you shine and succeed. Maybe you have some friends with similar goals, team up with them. Maybe you do workouts together, or just have them their to support you during this process.

When you have friends that are motivated to do the same thing, you see results much faster. Your friends and loved ones help you to be accountable to yourself, and remain true to the intentions you set.

4. Get up and Go!- Exercise during the mornings whenever possible. When you work out at the start of your day it decreases your appetite and stimulates the thyroid to burn calories all day long.

Try power walking, jogging, swimming, or spinning in the mornings to start off your day, add some resistance training at the end of the workout to further stimulate the fat burning process. This might include push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, and squats.

5. Eat More! – Eat more meals throughout the day, that is. Start the day with a solid breakfast and eat smaller meals throughout the day – as many as 5-6 meals spread out to encourage stable blood sugar levels and a satiated appetite.

When you eat smaller meals more often you are less likely to reach for junk foods. Eat whole and unprocessed fruits and veggies, making sure that you balance your diet with high quality lean proteins, green leafy vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. Pack healthy snacks for yourself to take on the go.

Click here to learn the health risks of processed foods and a simple way to eat better.

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6. Kick Sugar to the Curb – Simple sugars enter your blood stream within minutes and have a harmful effect on the body, causing mood swings, weight gain, mineral depletion, heart disease, arthritis, among other disorders.

Let’s face it, our diets are loaded with sugar, but we can do our best to control how much sugar we eat and in what forms. Generally avoid white sugar, which has been through a “bleaching” process, as well as synthetic sugars. Sugar will definitely interfere with your goal for a trimmer waistline. Click here to learn why to avoid bleached foods.

If you know you have a sweet tooth, try integrating sweet-tasting foods into your diet. Foods like sweet potatoes, pears and cinnamon are soothing to the pancreas and can satisfy the body’s craving for sweet taste. For healthier alternatives to sugar try the following sweeteners: Agave Nectar, Maple Syrup, Stevia, or Honey.

Click here for more tips on beating sugar cravings.

7. Keep it Moving – As it gets warmer our bodies naturally desire more sunlight and activity. Carve out some time in your busy schedule to do some of the things you love to do outdoors, like rollerblading, bike-riding, recreational sports, dancing, walking more, etc. When you do what you love you’re happiest, its exercise without effort, and easy to shed pounds.

Want to speed up your tune-up? Try riding a bike or walking to work instead of driving. Even if you only do it once or twice each week, you’ll get great exercise, avoid the stress of rush-hour traffic and significantly shrink your carbon footprint. What’s not to love?

8. Keep it Fresh – I mean two things here: 1. Eat the fresh seasonal foods that are available, and 2. Introduce new and exciting dishes, and methods of preparation to your culinary repertoire. It gets boring eating the same old thing, prepared the same old way all the time. With the changing season try incorporating some new techniques and recipes that will inspire you to eat healthy and celebrate this new shift.

A seasonal diet isn’t just good for you; it’s good for the planet too. Eating seasonal, locally grown food supports sustainable small-scale farming, promotes a natural growth cycle that improves soil quality and reduces emissions from carbon-intensive greenhouse farms.

Learn more about a seasonal diet and get insiders’ tips on finding the best food at a farmers’ market.

9. Keep it Lean! - When consuming protein cut back a bit and allow yourself 3-4 ounces a couple times a week. You don’t need to have meat at every meal, in fact, it should be treated more like a side dish than a main course. Eat lean portions of protein a few times per week and get adequate sources of plant protein to supplement your diet. Some sources include: legumes, quinoa, brown rice, artichokes, beets, brussels sprouts, nuts and seeds.

Did you know that it takes one gallon of gas, sixteen pounds of grain, and four hundred gallons of water to produce a single pound of meat? Save these precious resources by eating some meat-free meals – even just once or twice a week – and enjoy a fitter figure and a healthier planet.

Try it tonight! Click here for some simple, delectable meat-free recipes.

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10. Eat Good Fat – A healthy intake of fats like avocado for instance is a better way of getting your daily fat than from fried foods. Try extra virgin olive oil instead in place of other cooking oils. Essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the body and as a result must be obtained from the diet. Omega 3s are beneficial for cardiovascular heath.

You can find them in the flax seed oil, borage oil, fish oil, strawberries, broccoli, walnuts, eggs, and acai palmberry.  Increasing your intake of Omega 3s will help you burn fat and lower your cholesterol.

Click here to learn how to tell healthy fats from harmful ones.

11. The Small Stuff Counts – Don’t underestimate the power of very small changes. Walk or take stairs whenever possible. Walking stairs activates the glutes, which lifts your butt and keeps it firm, and who doesn’t like a firm backside? Incorporate yoga or stretching, and aerobic work into your daily activities. Little short workouts spread out throughout your day can have a big impact on your waistline overtime.

12. Set Yourself up for Success – Be prepared. If you know you need new running sneakers or need a new pair of tights for that hot yoga class, do yourself a favor and purchase these things ahead of time. Download class schedules for group exercise classes you are interested in taking at the gym.

If you want to start off on the good foot, make sure to have all the equipment necessary to help propel you into motion. Purchase a notebook where you will keep track of what you are eating as well as log in your workouts. When we start off organized and confident we have a better chance of succeeding and meeting our lifestyle goals.

13. Set a Goal – If you have a specific goal in mind you are more likely to stay focused and aligned with your lifestyle changes. For instance, if you’re heading to the beach in mid-August and decide you want to shed 5-10 pounds by then, you will have this goal in the forefront of your consciousness when you sit down to eat and to motivate you when you are exercising.

Goal setting gives us tangible ways to achieve success. Set benchmarks where you will reward yourself after meeting certain goals. And don’t forget to tell those who love and support you so that they too can help keep you on track.

14. Pack a Mobile Pantry – It can be challenging to eat well when you are constantly on the go. Places that serve healthy lunches and snacks are scarce compared to the plethora of fast food joints out there. One way to set yourself up for success is to pack a mobile pantry.

Pack a selection of easily transportable foods that you can munch on throughout the day when you find yourself hungry. This will help keep you away from the vending machines, and help to regulate cravings. Pack fruit, nuts, seeds, crackers, cheese, or dip with sliced veggies.

Click here for 6 quick, healthy snacks you can take to-go.

15. Eat In – Dining out means less control of what’s in your food. Restaurants and processed food contribute to the majority of sodium, sugar, and poor fat, in our diets, not to mention the hidden calories. Save restaurant dining for occasional nights out and really focus on preparing healthy meals for yourself at home.

Need another reason not to eat out? Consider the cost. Even if you’re eating on the cheap, the average meal and drink at a restaurant costs 75% more per person than a home-cooked meal. Plus, eating in saves not only your money, but precious resources as well. By cutting down on eating out, you’ll reduce the tons of plastic bags, utensils and containers that go to the landfill when you throw out your take-out.

Go to the bookstore and check out some new cookbooks, like Chef Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen, (Perseus/DiCappo). Remember to keep dinners light. Not only will you save money this way, you will lose weight too.

Why not try something new tonight? Click here to browse our database of quick, healthy recipes.

 
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Green Summer Camp

By Latham Thomas ecomii.com
May 21, 2009
File under: exercise, Green Activities, Health

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As summer nears, many parents are struggling with decisions about what to do with their kids to keep them busy.

Summer camp brings fond memories of chasing toads, climbing trees, catching worms, eating “mystery meals” in the mess hall and drinking “bug juice”.

This experience of just playing in the dirt out in nature really helps to shape children into environmentally responsible people, according to a Cornell University study. The study showed that children who participated in “wild” outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, playing in the woods, were more likely to have a visceral connection to the environment and more environmentally friendly attitudes as adults. …read more of Green Summer Camp here

 
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A Plug for Inconvenience

By Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos
February 12, 2009
File under: exercise, Family Time, Health

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why, when we visited family in suburban Cleveland over the holidays, my family and I were as sedentary as hibernating bears.

We’d leave the house for periods of play—like pulling the new Radio Flyer wagon, heavy with little ones, around the yard. We’d walk to the car to drive somewhere to buy something we probably didn’t need. And we watched far more TV than usual. As much as I love them, I couldn’t wait to come home.

Most winter days here, we’re up before the sun (I’d love to change that, boys). We collect eggs and feed the chickens. We haul, split and stack firewood. We feed the woodstove three times a day. Ditto for our hungry bellies; we (sometimes grudgingly) cook all of our meals, mostly from simple, natural foods.

And it’s at this time of year, when snowstorm after snowstorm lays lovely layers of winter’s cloak down all around us, that we snow blow, shovel and rake our roof to keep the ice at bay.

I realize that this work, the work that we’ve taken on by choice so we could feel …read more of A Plug for Inconvenience here

 
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Green Stress Relief—Family Style

By Linda Brown-Kuhn
January 20, 2009
File under: exercise, Family Time, Health

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Without a doubt times are difficult. Stress levels are up among parents in many households and that percolates down to the kids eventually.  One easy green way I’ve found to diffuse anxieties within my family unit, at least temporarily, is to get the whole gang outside.

I know this strategy works for me as I’m a long time walker, lucky enough to live in a forested rural area with babbling streams criss-crossing the road. I’ve walked dogs, kids, and sometimes dogs and kids together for years. Getting outdoors and opening my senses to the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations takes my mind off any worries and is like balm to my spirit.

Sometimes I play a game with my kids to get them to really “see” and appreciate their natural surroundings. When we’re outside on the move I ask them to each find one amazing thing. …read more of Green Stress Relief—Family Style here

 
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60 Days of Insanity Caused Clarity. Designing your “New Year”

By Denise Spatafora
January 8, 2009
File under: exercise, Food, Health, holidays

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In October, a few days before my birthday, I was evaluating what I really wanted for myself in this new year, my “personal new years” celebration, the day of my birth.

I declared that I was going to make sure this was the best year of my life so far. As I began to design this, I looked at everything I wanted and all that was having me suffer; all the places in my life where I was not proud of myself. Not based on what anyone else thought, but where I was being sloppy, resigned and not creating what I wanted. One area of suffering that was the loudest was my health and weight.

We all like to look good but just as important for me was feeling good, feeling strong, feeling vital. I was a trained competitive ice skater, ran the NYC marathon, gave birth to my children at home and was always very physical. I am best when my body, mind and heart are aligned. I knew bringing discipline to this suffering would make a big difference for me. …read more of 60 Days of Insanity Caused Clarity. Designing your “New Year” here

 
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