Lose Sleep and You’ll Lose Your Mind and Health

We’ve all heard about the importance of sleep to our health and well-being at one point or another. It seems that I have someone pleading for me to get more sleep more than once on a daily basis. Oprah, Arianna, Mom…I hear you.

But the science behind sleep is a murky world. As much as we’ve come to learn about what happens to our bodies when we sleep, there’s still a lot we don’t know. The popularity of fitness trackers led to a great demand for sleep tracking as well, which some devices reportedly do for you. What do we do with that data though? How much sleep is enough sleep?

The answers vary and although I’m skeptical about the sleep tracking capabilities of fitness devices, the truth is that most of us are interested in understanding how sleep affects us.

In a recent study published in the journal Science, researchers revealed that sleep acts like a mental janitor, cleaning out all the ‘junk’ we accumulate during the day. If we can clean out our computers’ caches by deleting cookies on a regular basis, why can’t we give our brains that same attention?

So it was a bit of a shock to come across this infographic below and see just how destructive lack of sleep can be to your health in both the short and long-term. We like to think that we can “catch up” on sleep when the weekend hits, but the damage has already been done.

Insufficient sleep negatively impacts cardiovascular health, cognition, emotional well-being and encourages some of the most harmful behaviors that pose a major mortality risk. Some are even going so far as to call it a public health epidemic.

Diabetes? Stroke? Obesity? Increased cancer risk? Potential accidents when driving while exhausted? These are just some of the side effects that lack of sleep offers. And this doesn’t take into account how this may affect your relationships, career, and personal happiness.

The majority of significant sleep studies are performed on white adults with a smaller proportion of African-American adults. Various cultural and language barriers are obstacles to a closer analysis of US Latinos’ sleep health, but given the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and hypertension among Latinos, this raises questions about the role of sleep, or lack thereof, in further exacerbating these conditions.

Take a look at the infographic below, shared by Huffington Post, and consider how your exhaustion (because I’ll bet that most of you do not get enough sleep on a regular basis) may impact your life.

courtesy Huffington Post

How much sleep do you get each night?

How does lack of sleep affect your efforts to maintain healthy eating and fitness habits?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to share in the comments section below, or on FB and Twitter.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Meatless Mondays: Healthy Apple Favorites

There are many many things I love about Fall.

Boots. Scarves. Brightly colored leaves. Cooler cuddle-worthy weather.

And my personal fave, apples.

Just look at these beauties.

lots-of-apples.jpg

Dreamy.

I took my love for apples to a new level of obsession with my apple recipe series last fall. In my search for Meatless Monday recipes in the archive, I realized that this would be the perfect time to bring these dishes back to the blog and hopefully onto your Pinterest boards for some healthy fall cooking inspiration.

If you’re planning on going apple picking or if you’re looking to try something new, then take a look at the links below!

Four of my five recipes in this series are completely meatless and they’re perfect for a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner or treat (there’s pie after all).

This Apple, Goat Cheese, and Pecan Pizza on Multigrain Crust is an easy way to combine some truly amazing fall flavors on a healthy crust. I topped this pizza with arugula to give the pizza a peppery finish, but you can use spinach or dandelion greens if that strikes your fancy. Also, if you’re going completely gluten-free or paleo, how about you try a cauliflower crust instead?

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Pizza

Looking for an easy breakfast recipe that’s perfect if you’re on the go and looking for an alternative to the eggs and bacon routine? Then check out these Healthy Oatmeal Apple Muffins, courtesy of the genius behind Cookie + Kate. My previous experience with her recipes inspired me to give these muffins a try and they were a definite hit for the week. Mental note to self: make these again immediately.

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Muffins

Butter can be healthy, especially when it’s made from apples. I’m a huge fan of fruit spreads and jams. Unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment (or the time or patience) to work on making my own fruit preserves each season. When I found this recipe for Unsweetened Apple Butter, I knew this was the perfect way to break in my brand new slow-cooker. And the results? PHENOMENAL. No, seriously. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. You won’t regret it, I promise you. Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Butter

And then there’s pie.

Check out my recipe for Deep Dish Apple Pie with a lighter, reduced fat crust. For all you pie lovers out there, I don’t really need to explain myself here. You don’t have to wait for Meatless Monday to enjoy a slice of pie, especially one that’s truly delicious and healthy to boot. Consider this a comfort food treat featuring the very best of Fall. Plus, I offer some baking tips if this is your first time making pastry dough or baking pie. I’ve made many pies and this pie pictured here? Best one ever.

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Pie

Feeling tempted to pick up some extra apples this week to give these recipes a try? You’re not alone. Happy Meatless Monday folks!!!

Remember to keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

Stress Less and Meditate Already

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks.

I take that back. It’s been a stressful couple of months.

Not surprisingly, I’ve also been feeling like crap most of the time. The impact of stress on the body is tremendous. Just take a look at this infographic to see how much stress can affect more than just your mood on any given day.

https://i0.wp.com/dailyinfographic.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/infographic-stress-effects.png

We know this. Stress=bad.

The constant advice to “chill out” and not “sweat the small stuff” tends to go in one ear and out the other. I’m guilty of this most of the time even though I find myself doling out that same piece of advice to others, knowing how difficult it is to just let go of the things that cause me to stress out.

There are ways to break this negative cycle.

And guess what: it’s free. No therapist or prescription necessary. Even better, you can start right now. You can start right this minute. Go ahead and stop reading my post if this means you’ll do this exercise to feel better.

What’s this remedy?

Meditation.

I’ve mentioned how I’ve incorporated meditation into my healthy lifestyle as a way to ease some of my tension on a daily basis. It’s a process that I stray from sometimes, but whenever I’m feeling my stress levels peak (take this week for example), I find myself sitting at my desk with my eyes closed, breathing deeply and shutting down for a little while.

If we can hibernate our computers, why can’t we do the same with our minds?

We are constantly buzzing all day with any number of obligations to others, but we underestimate the value of true downtime. And I mean real downtime. Like with no phones or television or tablets to distract us from realigning our minds with our bodies.

I am by no means an expert meditation master. I mainly follow a guided listening sample and try my best to sit still, breathe, and not think so damn much. Some days are much better than others. The important thing is that I’m taking the time to stop, something I never ever on a normal basis.

Let’s be honest here and talk about the total lack of mindfulness we bring to our daily choices. I, for one, grow tired of going through the motions in the process of getting from point A to point B. That lacks depth and it keeps me disconnected, further contributing to my stress and unhappiness.

Being mindful of my surroundings through my meditation practice helps raise my awareness of not only the physical reactions of my body in that moment, but it helps clear my mind of the uncertainties I may be feeling towards a given situation. It regulates my mood while also giving me some time to put things into perspective. What’s even more impressive is that it increases my productively which in turn, makes me feel more successful and more motivated to stay focused on my goals. It’s self-efficacy at its finest.

There are a number of studies linking meditation with a reduction in stress due to decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol while increasing cognitive function. Some of the other benefits from mediation include:

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Courtesy of http://robertmijas.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/meditation.png

How can you start mediating?

There are various meditation practices that you can try either alone or with meditation groups. There are dozens of meditation meetups in New York City alone, so it may be worth checking in your area for similar programs.

I practice mindfulness meditation but my style is pretty fluid. I don’t have room for a meditation space, so I’ve learned to adapt to my surroundings and just find a spot where I can sit without distractions for at least 15 minutes. Since my mind is always going, I listen to guided affirmations or meditation music I’ve found on YouTube to establish a peaceful environment where I can let my thoughts drift.

If you’re looking for other types of meditation techniques and ways to get started as a beginner, here’s a great guide from FitSugar.

What does this cost me? Nothing.

My goal isn’t to have a transcendental experience or a conversation with God. I’m not Elizabeth Gilbert nor am I planning on moving to an ashram anytime soon. I just want some peace of mind.

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I seek balance with everything I’m doing. From my diet to my exercise to my mental and emotional well-being; it’s all about keeping things level especially during times when the scales are off and all I want to do is stay under my covers watching Netflix until I pass out (sounds so damn good right now).

The “run and hide” approach may work if your five, but that strategy doesn’t work as well when you’re an adult. Trust me. I’ve tried.

I’ll continue working on my meditation practice and hopefully one day I’ll know enough to come back here and share some more tips on how to get you started. For now I hope that I’ve swayed at least one person to give this meditation thing a try.

Like I said earlier, if this means that you need to stop reading this blog to practice, please don’t hesitate. In fact, go. Get up and just do it already.

Do you meditate?

Would you try meditation to help ease your stress?

How do you cope with stress?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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