Daily Archives: April 21, 2017

How to Get Past “I Should” and Actually Become a Healthy Person

When I was a dieter I had a mindbogglingly long list of things I “should” do to reach my goals.

I should go for a run every morning.

I should do 100 crunches per day.

I should be a size 2.

I should not drink calories.

I should never eat ice cream.

It makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

Amazingly I was able to do many of these things (I’ve written before how I actually have pretty strong willpower). But it was a constant battle and it still never felt like I was doing enough. No matter how hard I tried, I was never happy.

It took me years to understand that it was in fact all these shoulds that were holding me back. That I had externalized my motivation, letting it be dictated by goals outside my true feelings, and by doing so sold myself short.

Motivating yourself is tricky business, and most of us go about it in completely the wrong way. We think we need more discipline, when what we actually need is more self-compassion.

But even self-compassion is less important than tapping into a strong source of Internal Motivation.

If you’re telling yourself you should do something, but aren’t doing it, the chances are pretty high that you don’t actually want to do it. You might want the results and benefits of whatever it is, but find the action itself to be a chore or punishment.

In other words, you are relying on External Motivation.

Internal Motivation is the opposite of External Motivation and is much more effective for maintaining long-term behaviors, especially those related to health. When you’re motivated by your own needs and desires, you stop thinking “I really should do this today” and start thinking “How am I going to make this happen?”

Your thoughts move from hope to action.

What’s interesting is that shifting your source of motivation has little to do with the task itself, and more to do with how you look at it. That means you can choose to see a “healthy” behavior in a new light by thinking about it in a new way.

But this can also work in the reverse direction. If something you once enjoyed suddenly becomes a requirement or a chore, you won’t be as motivated to do it.

Being physically active, for example, is innately rewarding. Children run, skip and jump for fun. Dogs fetch, chase and wrestle whenever they are allowed. If you know anyone who plays sports or exercises regularly at wee hours in the morning, they are probably motivated by something other than health or weight loss.

On the other hand, when exercise is a prescription for weight loss, a punishment for overeating, or forced upon you for some other external reason, your Internal Motivation gets replaced with External Motivation, and your desire to do it plummets.

This means External Motivation isn’t just inferior to Internal Motivation for achieving your goals, it actually acts as a force of demotivation.

In psychology, this is referred to as the Overjustification Effect, and it is the reason that focusing on your Internal Motivation at an emotional (not rational) level is necessary to become a healthy person.

The single most profound thing that happened to me when I decided to stop dieting and started focusing on my own well-being was that I rediscovered the innate joy that comes from eating fresh, seasonal Real Food. Shopping at the farmers market and teaching myself to cook was so rewarding and incredibly different from my past life––forcing myself to eat protein bars and making excuses to not join my friends for dinner parties––that I abandoned my chosen career in academics and launched a website called Summer Tomato. When you think about it, that’s nuts. And that is the power of Internal Motivation.

Today I never think about what I should do to lose weight or be healthier, except in a very abstract sense. Instead I make sure that I regularly do the things that support my quality of life––my Home Court Habits––and these are some of the best parts of my day. I find it beautiful and ironic that this shift in perspective is what helped me keep 25 lbs off for nearly 10 years.

If you’re still struggling to build the habits of eating better or being active, start by focusing on the things you love. Let go of the External Motivations of looking good, pleasing your doctor or being “healthy,” and tune in to your desires to feel energized, eat delicious foods that help you thrive, and giving your body what it needs.

Start on the inside if you want change on the outside.

What motivates you?

26 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Be Healthy

You want to be healthy, but sometimes it seems like being healthy is a constant uphill battle. But what if being healthy was as easy as ABC?

It can be with these easy steps:

Avoid processed foods and artificial sweeteners. Become familiar with the names of these ingredients (i.e. high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, etc.)

Breakfast. This is an important meal to eat every day. Focus on fueling your body with whole grains, proteins, and fruit.

Colorful foods. Think of your plate as a blank canvas. Nobody wants to stare at an all-yellow canvas. Try to make your meals as colorful as possible using a variety of grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Drink water. Your body needs water to function properly. Don’t drink your calories, drink water! If you don’t like plain water, try adding flavors using fresh fruit and veggies like strawberries, cucumbers, mint, etc.

Eat seasonally. By doing so, you’ll get the most nutrients from your food because it’s at its freshest point.

Farmer’s markets. Visit your local farmer’s market to make eating seasonally easy. Talk to the farmers and get to know the vendors.

Go outside. Get some natural Vitamin D. This will boost your energy and your immune system!

Hire a health coach. Not only can a healthy coach help you focus on your goals, but they’ll hold you accountable too!

Imagine your ideal self. Not necessarily your ideal weight, but your ideal self. How you want to conduct yourself, what’s important to you and how you’ll make that a focus, what your ideal self will feed your body for optimal health, etc.

Junk food cleanse. While I offer a junk food cleanse to my clients, you can do this on your own, too. Go through your cupboards and fridge, and either purge all the junk food OR make a pact with yourself that when it runs out, you will not buy more.

Keep a food journal. By keeping a journal of what you eat, you’ll be able to see patterns of overeating, stress eating, etc. This is also a way to hold you accountable when you make that choice to have a healthier diet!

Lean proteins. Focus on proteins like chicken breast, turkey, eggs, and raw nuts. These will be the most beneficial when it comes to fueling your body.

Meal plan. Plan your meals every week. Sit down for an hour or so each week and plan out your meals. This helps you stay on track and avoid having to come up with quick, possibly unhealthy meal options.

Nap when needed. Sometimes all that you need is a quick nap! This will give you a great boost of energy rather than reaching for an energy drink or more cups of coffee than you really need.

Omega-3s. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, combat depression and improve mood and memory. Try to focus on omega-3 fats from food rather than supplements. Excellent sources include salmon, tuna, walnuts, flax seeds, leafy greens and hemp seeds.

Pack your lunch. Often, when working in an office, it’s easy to make too many trips to the nearest fast food join. Pack your lunch to keep it healthy. I like salads loaded with fresh vegetables and lean protein. (Make your own dressing to keep it even more healthy.)

Quit making excuses. There are so many reasons why being healthy may not be convenient, but start listing the reasons that you want to be healthy! No more excuses.

Reduce stress. Reduce your level of stress by delegating, meditating, finding your happy place, and taking time for yourself!

Share Your Goals. By doing so, you make it so all the people you tell are going to hold you accountable!

Treat yourself (in moderation). Depriving yourself of things you love will work only for a short time. If you love chocolate, try to eat dark chocolate instead. Love cake? Look online for TONS of healthy versions of your favorite recipe.

Understand your cravings. Focus on what’s causing them. Many times you can offset your cravings with something healthy. For example, if you’re craving chocolate, you may be low on magnesium. Try eating nuts, seeds, fruits, or veggies to help this craving.

Vegan once a week. Try to go one day a week without eating animal proteins. (Also known as Meatless Monday.) It will force you to use some creativity at first, but after a month, it’ll be very easy to come up with meal ideas.

Whole food diet. Rather than trying the newest diet trend, focus on eating a whole food diet. This is a diet that includes lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

eXercise. (Yes, I cheated on this one!). Exercising for 150 minutes a week can be very beneficial for both your mind and body. Schedule your exercise in to your daily schedule to make sure you don’t skip it.

Yoga. If you’re stressed, yoga is a great way to relax. You’ll focus on breathing and keep your emotions in check!

ZZZZs. Get plenty of sleep! Try sleeping with the blinds open, rather than closed. When the sun starts to rise and shine into your room, your brain will slow down its melatonin production and start producing adrenaline. Once your body starts producing adrenaline, your body will start waking up slowly, even before the alarm goes off.


More and more research is showing that the key to lifelong good health is what experts call “lifestyle medicine” — making simple changes in diet, exercise, and stress management. To help you turn that knowledge into results, we’ve put together this manageable list of health and wellness suggestions.

We asked three experts — a naturopathic physician, a dietitian, and a personal trainer — to tell us the top five simple-but-significant lifestyle-medicine changes they recommend.

Besides giving you three different takes on how to pick your health battles, this list gives you choices you can make without being whisked off to a reality-show fat farm — or buying a second freezer for those calorie-controlled, pre-portioned frozen meals.


Research shows a healthy positive attitude helps build a healthier immune system and boosts overall health. Your body believes what you think, so focus on the positive.


Shoot for five servings of vegetables a day — raw, steamed, or stir-fried. A diet high in vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of developing cancers of the lung, colon, breast, cervix, esophagus, stomach, bladder, pancreas, and ovaries. And many of the most powerful phytonutrients are the ones with the boldest colors — such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, grapes, and leafy greens.


What, when, and how much you eat can keep both your metabolism and your energy levels steadily elevated, so you’ll have more all-day energy. A “5 meal ideal” will help you manage your weight, keep your cool, maintain your focus, and avoid cravings.


Did you know that daily exercise can reduce all of the biomarkers of aging? This includes improving eyesight, normalizing blood pressure, improving lean muscle, lowering cholesterol, and improving bone density. If you want to live well and live longer, you must exercise! Studies show that even ten minutes of exercise makes a difference — so do something! Crank the stereo and dance in your living room. Sign up for swing dancing or ballroom dancing lessons. Walk to the park with your kids or a neighbor you’d like to catch up with. Jump rope or play hopscotch. Spin a hula hoop. Play water volleyball. Bike to work. Jump on a trampoline. Go for a hike.


If you have trouble sleeping, try relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga. Or eat a small bedtime snack of foods shown to help shift the body and mind into sleep mode: whole grain cereal with milk, oatmeal, cherries, or chamomile tea. Darken your room more and turn your clock away from you. Write down worries or stressful thoughts to get them out of your head and onto the page. This will help you put them into perspective so you can quit worrying about them.

Christina Reiter, M.S., R.D.

Resident consulting dietitian at the University of Colorado–Boulder Wardenburg Health Center for Nutrition Education and Therapies and former director of the nutrition program at Metropolitan State College of Denver.


What we eat and how we feel are linked in very complex ways. A healthy approach to eating is centered on savoring flavor, eating to satisfaction, and increasing energy, rather than focusing on weight. Check your balance of low-calorie foods, nutrient-dense foods (providing many nutrients per calorie), and foods that are calorie dense but nutrient poor. Most Americans need to eat more fresh whole foods (in contrast to processed, highly refined foods). Try to add more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and legumes into your meals. Pair these carbohydrate-rich foods with a healthy fat or lean protein to extend satisfaction.


If adding more fruits and vegetables sounds ominous, look to “finger food” versions that preschool kids love — carrot and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, grapes, berries, and dried fruits. All are nutritional powerhouses packed with antioxidants.


Limit saturated fats and trans fats, and aim to eat more foods rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids to cut your risk of cardiovascular disease and maybe even improve depressed moods. The equivalent of just one gram of EPA/DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid/docosahexaenoic acid) daily is recommended. Eating cold-water oily fish (wild salmon, herring, sardines, trout) two to three times per week will provide both EPA and DHA. Adding up to two tablespoons of ground flaxseed and eating meat, milk, and cheese from grass-fed animals will provide you with a healthy dose of omega-3s.


Supplements are not a substitute for a good diet. Although many health experts recommend taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement that provides 100 to 200 percent of your recommended daily value, each and every supplement should be carefully evaluated for purity and safety. Specific supplements have been associated with toxicity, reactions with medications, competition with other nutrients, and even increased risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.


Both eating and physical activity are fun, sensory experiences! In both, aim for pleasure — not pain. Pay attention to the nutritional value of the foods you choose to eat, as well as your sense of satisfaction, relaxation, tension, exhilaration, and fatigue when you sit down to eat. Check in with yourself as you eat, rekindling your recognition of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction when considering when and how much to eat.

Rick Olderman, M.S., P.T.

A physical therapist and owner of Z-Line Training in Denver, Colorado, offering rehabilitation, personal training, Pilates instruction, motivational injury-prevention seminars, employee fitness program development, and custom foot orthotics casting.


“I spend countless hours doing cardio and never seem to lose that last ten pounds!” is a common complaint I hear from clients. Give yourself permission to shorten your workout. Believe it or not, overtraining could be the problem. Your body can plateau if not given adequate rest to restore itself, ultimately leading to a decline in performance. Fatigue, moodiness, lack of enthusiasm, depression, and increased cortisol (the “stress” hormone) are some hallmarks of overtraining syndrome. Creating a periodization program — breaking up your routine into various training modes — can help prevent overtraining by building rest phases into your regimen. For example, you might weight train on Monday and Wednesday, cycle on Tuesday and Thursday, run on Friday and rest on Saturday and Sunday. You can also help balance your program by simply incorporating more variety.


Often the biggest deterrent to improving health is feeling overwhelmed by all the available advice and research. Try to focus first on one small, seemingly inconsequential, unhealthy habit and turn it into a healthy, positive habit. If you’re in the habit of eating as soon as you get home at night, instead, keep walking shoes in the garage or entryway and take a quick spin around the block before going inside. If you have a can of soda at lunchtime every day, have a glass of water two days a week instead. Starting with small, painless changes helps establish the mentality that healthy change is not necessarily painful change. It’s easy to build from here by adding more healthy substitutions.


You can do all the right things — but if you have personal relationships with people who have unhealthy habits, it is often an uphill battle. The healthiest people are those who have relationships with other healthy people. Get your family or friends involved with you when you walk or plan healthier meals. Making healthy changes with a loved one can bring you closer together as well as motivate you.


Take a few minutes and write down all the reasons you can’t begin an exercise program. Then look at the basis of each reason. For instance, if you wrote, “No time” as one of your reasons, then perhaps that’s based on a belief that an exercise program takes a lot of time. Starting with even five minutes a day will have a positive effect because you will have created a healthy habit where one didn’t exist before, and that’s a powerful mental adjustment. A closer look at your list will expose those false beliefs hiding behind each excuse.


Let’s face it, exercising just for the sake of exercising or losing weight can get boring. Spice things up by signing up for an event like a run/walk race or a cycling ride where you can be part of a team. Doing so gives your workouts a new purpose, and it’s fun to be around others who are exercising just like you — not to mention that most events benefit nonprofit organizations, which doubles your feel-good high.