Posts in wellness
A Shift in Perspective: Starting vs Stopping a Habit

Photo by: Catherine Teague

I use this photo of my dog and me walking to illustrate a point about habit development and behavior change: seek addition to your life, not subtraction. What do you want MORE of in your life? When we want to make healthy lifestyle changes, we tend to start with what we want to stop doing. For example:

·     stop eating from the snack drawer in the office

·     stop drinking so much after work

·     stop spending so much time on my phone

·     stop ordering out/picking up food

·     stop eating so much meat

While it’s good to identify behavior you want to alter, basing your goals on a negative versus a positive can hurt your long-term success. Why? Because it emphasizes deprivation. You are coming from a place of restriction. This might not seem like a big deal, but mindset is key to maintaining changes in your schedule. Slight tweaks to how you approach your goals can be the very thing that enables you to reach them. Flip the script to what you want your life to include.

I like to work with clients on setting goals that come from a positive perspective and lead to action. So, for example, using those same goals but slightly tweaking the approach:

·     stop eating from the snack drawer in the office ->

start packing a healthy snack in my work bag to eat when I need something (I get more healthy food)

·     stop drinking so much after work ->

start walking my dog when I get home to relieve stress from work day (I get more outside time, exercise, bonding)

·     stop spending so much time on my phone ->

start reading a new book before bed (I get more mentally beneficial stimulation, likely more sleep)

·     stop ordering out/picking up food ->

start preparing and prepping my meals in advance so I have a quick, healthy meals available (I get more healthy food and save more $)

·     stop eating so much meat ->

start filling plate with more vegetables so meat becomes a side (I get more fiber, color etc to my diet)

One of the best ways to stop doing something is to start doing something else in its place. Replace one habit with another one. Therefore, the void is being filled. You are adding something to your life not just taking something away.

When you want to make a change, take the perspective of abundance over restriction. I want more of this (not less of that). You will focus more on the positive action you can take to start feeling the way you want to feel. And, if you can get someone else involved who will mutually benefit from this change (like a dog!), you will feel an extra accountability to follow through with it. The positivity will be added to their life as well. Abundance all around.

wellnessJulie Minchewhabits
How to Increase Willpower
bethany-newman-61417-unsplash (1).jpg

One of the workshops I tend to do at companies is called “How to Increase Willpower.” Why? Because research shows that lack of willpower is the #1 reason people say they struggle to meet their goals. With all the snacks, catered food and stress that comes with working in an office, willpower is really pushed to the limit most days.

Willpower, by definition, is the trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior. Control. That’s a tricky word, right? It summons up all sorts of feelings of restriction, judgment, and guilt. Control can quickly become negative. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

One of the misconceptions about willpower is that in order to be in control you must say no - no to the donuts, the glass of wine, the Tuesday Tacos that were catered in for lunch. I challenge this by positioning control as saying yes – yes to what you ultimately want. What I mean by this is willpower is an act of impulse vs planned. Or put more simply: reactive vs proactive. To be in control is to have a plan in those moments of temptation. A plan enables you to say “I’m doing this instead.” It remains positive. Future-focused. Liberating.

That’s control. That’s willpower.

In my workshop, I provide several strategies on how to increase willpower with the goal of changing people’s perspective of it.

wellnessJulie Minchew
Recent Interview in Voyage ATL

I recently did an interview with local Atlanta publication, VoyageATL, as part of their “Inspiring Stories” series. If you are looking for more information on what I do or why I do it, this is a great reference. My favorite question was whether or not Atlanta is a good city for Health Coaching. Here is article!

wellnessJulie Minchew
Beat the Holi-daze: How to Not Fall off Track

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be when we let ourselves go. We fall out of routine. We overindulge with food and drink. We stay up late. We stay inside. We stay….still.

The season becomes a daze. Then we wake up in January and  feel the need to reset.

But what makes the holidays scary in regards to keeping healthy habits – lack of structure, not being at home, relatives, having too much time but nothing to do etc – can also be the very things that ignite new life into our healthy habits. It’s all about your perspective. How you use this time. How you view this time.

Here are 4 tips on how to not fall off track during the season:

1. Don’t let one day or meal set the tone. - If you eat/drink too much or not as healthy as you would like, remember it’s only one meal, one day. No pressure. Eat/drink the way that fits with your health goals the next meal or snack, the next day. Every time you eat or drink is a new chance, another choice. It’s not all or nothing.

2. Create a colorful, balanced plate. – Avoid the beige, monochromatic plate. Before you make your plate, visualize what you want it to look like in detail. Then make a plate that matches that image. It’ll help you avoid impulse grabbing. You know what you are looking for. Visualization is key

3. Think differently about traditions/rituals. – If you always bake a lot with your sister out of nostalgia, what’s something else you can do together that serves that same purpose? Or what are only 1 or 2 recipes that you can make vs 4?

Also, how can you rethink leftovers? If you don’t want to keep all that food around but don’t want it to go to waste either…could you surprise a neighbor? A friend? Share.

4. See this time as a vacation from your normal routine, not your routine. – Take advantage of having more time and more friends/family around. Instead of going to the gym, maybe you go on a long walk with your boyfriend. Maybe you take your dogs to a state park for a hike. Maybe you meal prep with your mom and aunts for the week ahead (meal prep party!). Maybe you try a crazy workout class with your husband in the middle of the day because…why not? Then you can grab a fun lunch afterwards.

The holidays are meant to be fun and relaxing. A healthy routine can be too. Flex your habits in new ways this next month. Explore. Experiment. Get others involved. Accept that things will be different and be ok with it. Your routine will not be perfect, but is it ever?

wellnessJulie Minchew
How to Make your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Oh New Year’s day – the day that brings a fresh start to us all. We are so hopeful about what we will achieve and vow that THIS year is OUR year. However, despite much effort put forth in January, the majority of us do not keep our resolutions past March. Why is this? And what can we do to make this year different? Below are a few tips on how to kick off the new year so your desired changes have a better chance of surviving – and becoming healthy habits that last.

Start Small. One of the biggest pitfalls of resolutions is that they start big and extreme. For example, we give up all alcohol and sugar and promise to go to the gym seven days a week. This might last a couple of weeks, but you’ll soon get tired of such a rigid extreme in behavior and revert back to your old routine because it requires less effort. (There’s a reason why most programs and “challenges” last only 28- 30 days.) The key is to start small – begin implementing one routine change at a time and build on it. Want to start eating healthier? Find a time in the day or a meal that usually involves unhealthy indulgences and fix that. Start there and when you’ve changed that, add something else. The objective is to make the new feel familiar. That’s when it becomes default.

Prepare. After you decide what changes you want to make this year, figure out the plan – the whole plan – and prepare for it. Write down not only the what but also the who, where, when, how, and why. Who will be involved in your goal? Most likely other people will be directly or indirectly involved in whatever it is you’re trying to do. For example, if you are changing what you eat everyday, are your spouse and kids on board? What about that co-worker who you always grab a mid-afternoon snack with? Then think about where and when this new behavior will take place. If you are deciding to workout, is it a gym at 6am? Or a run outside immediately after work? And then how will you do it? If you plan to workout immediately after work, you may decide to pack a gym bag the night before and put it by the door. And lastly, spend some time thinking about your why. Why do you want to make this particular change? Why is it important now? This why will serve as your motivation when times get tough.

Find External Accountability. According to Gretchen Rubin, when it comes to meeting expectations, most of us are what she calls “Obligers.” This means we have the tendency to meet outer expectations (ie work deadlines, family responsibilities) but struggle to meet inner expectations (ie New Year resolutions). The solve is to find external accountability with our goals. This could be finding a workout buddy who is relying on you to exercise, a personal trainer who is waiting for you to at the gym, or a health coach (like me!) who is helping you track your progress. Expanding the benefits of accomplishing your goal to other people could be the inspiration you need to stay on track. Even just sharing your goals and successes with others will make you feel more accountable to them because people will ask how things are going and start to expect that behavior from you.

Welcome the Stumbles. You will not be perfect and that’s ok. Go into the new year knowing this. Plan for failure because if you welcome a stumble it helps prevent a fall. You will miss workouts, eat doughnuts with your kids, and order take out instead of eating the home-cooked meal. This is life. The key is to effectively deal with these lapses so they don’t turn into full on relapses in behavior. We have a tendency to think “all or nothing.” Once we’ve done something “bad,” we say f-it and surrender to the bad behavior. Instead, see the behavior as an exception and get right back on track at the next meal. Know that exceptions will come along and plan for them.

Build Knowledge. Most people kick off a new exercise regimen by joining a particular studio or a new diet by subscribing to a meal plan, but don’t rely too heavily on any one outside resource for attaining your health goals. There will be times that resource will not be available. You don’t want to depend so much on it that you are at a loss when it isn’t there – like when you travel. As you begin your new routines, build the knowledge necessary to keep it going yourself. Be proactive in learning as much as you can about what it is you are doing so you can replicate it on your own as needed. So when you go out to eat on a Saturday night with friends, you know what to order off the menu that keeps you still on track with your goals. Or when you're traveling for work, you feel confident you can keep your workouts going despite not having access to your personal trainer or the workout studio you frequent. Also, most plans are one-size-fits-all. Be aware of what works for you specifically. The more awareness you have of your own needs the better you can customize plans for individual long-term gains. 

Hopefully, these tips will help make this new year a successful one for you and your health goals. Remember to be easy on yourself as we all experience ups and downs along the journey. The goal of good health is a continued one.

wellnessJulie Minchew
5 Tips for a Healthier Thanksgiving

Did you know that it’s common for people to consume close to 5,000 calories around the Thanksgiving table? That’s double the recommended amount for an average person per day. Yikes. And this overeating isn’t reserved just for Thursday’s meal. This week tends to kick off a full season of less moving, more eating. Although it’s fine to indulge, don’t give up on the health goals and habits you’ve put into place this year. We have another whole month of casseroles, pies, traveling, and increasingly cold weather. The more mindful you are this week the better you will fare this holiday season…and into next year.

Here are some tips for a healthier Thanksgiving:

1.   Keep a routine. If you work out everyday, work out everyday. If you go to bed around 10pm, keep doing that. It doesn’t have to be as regimented or extreme, but by keeping up with your normal daily patterns you won’t have to “start over.” We tend to put pressure on the future to make up for what we do now. Do things this week that help support, not stress, the future version of yourself.

2.   Don’t save your appetite. We prepare to overindulge in that one meal by skipping the others. When we do this, we may eat fewer meals but consume more food. That’s because restricting leads to overeating. The other meals can be smaller, but just remember to eat. You want to sit down at the table hungry not starving.

3.   Make the splurge worth it. Instead of overeating on chips and salsa or cookies, save your indulgences for the foods that are special and you don’t have very often. Forgo the usual snacks or the boring dinner roll for the foods that you love. This way you get to enjoy the goodies you want because you’ve planned for them. The indulgences are still under your control.  

4.   Pick booze or sugar. If you are going to have dessert, don’t have another glass of wine. Be conscious of the amount of sugar you're consuming because it can be sneaky on days like Thanksgiving. Think in terms of a singular sweet indulgence. If you decide you definitely want both, switch to a less sugary cocktail.  

5.   Move. Instead of stretching out on the couch after the big meal, go for a walk around the block. Get your relatives to go with you. Take the dogs. Make it a thing. Moving around for even just 30 minutes will fight the urge to slip into that infamous food coma.

wellnessJulie Minchew
Sleep Shouldn't be a Luxury: Why Proper Shut Eye is Crucial

"Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive
themselves of sleep for no apparent gain.”

- Matthew Walker, sleep scientist

Despite being told for years to do it, most of us don’t get 8 hours of sleep every night. We try, but decide we can “get by” without it and continue to prioritize other things. The health effects of sleep deprivation are more significant than we realize, though. Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the UC Berkeley, tells NPR that “every disease that is killing us in developed nations has causal and significant links to a lack of sleep.” We forget that sleep serves as the foundation for everything we do. If we aren’t fully rested and restored, we will not be able to live or perform at optimal or even baseline levels. And without proper shut-eye, we will not be able to achieve our health goals.

This is why one of the first things I have clients do is examine their sleep – not the cycles of it but the routines around it. These habits affect and shape our other habits. For an example, let’s say you have no energy in the morning to exercise. Or every afternoon you find yourself rummaging in the office snack drawer. Instead of accepting that you are “not a morning person” or that you are hungry everyday at 3pm, first determine if you are just tired. When we are tired, our bodies both conserve energy and seek it out in other places. 

Our sleep tonight underpins everything we do tomorrow. Before you identify which bad habits you want to change, first understand why you are doing them. Insufficient sleep could be the answer.

wellnessJulie Minchew
5 Tips: How to Survive Work Travel

Lately, I've been traveling a lot for work. Trying to stay healthy in airports, at client dinners, and during meeting lunches is hard. What do you do if the only option is a pasta buffet? Or if the hotel gym is just an elliptical in a closet? Or if you forgot to pack workout clothes? 

How can you keep your healthy habits when things are out of your control? 

Simple answer: plan ahead and prepare for the worst. Here are 5 things I try to do when I travel for work:

1. Identify restaurants near your hotel that have healthy options before you leave. Do some research. Check out the menu of the hotel restaurant. Determine what the best options are around you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That way you have a go-to place and meal, so you won't be tempted in the moment to settle for something. Also, if the only meal you know you can control is breakfast, try to eat the healthiest breakfast you can before heading out that day. If the work lunch or dinner option isn't healthy at least you got some good, nutritious food in earlier. 

2. Eat good before you leave home. Try to eat a good, healthy meal before you head to the airport (or hit the road). That way you start your trip satisfied and with nourishment. If I'm leaving early in the morning, I drink a smoothie before I go - full of veggies, healthy fats, protein, and fiber. If it's later in the day, I eat a good lunch or dinner or drink a low-sugar green juice on the way out.  

3. Pack healthy snacks. Airport food is getting better but it's still not the best. Pack low-sugar protein bars, fruit, cut-up veggies, nut butter packets, and/or plant-based protein powder packets. I've experienced so many flight delays lately (almost every flight!) that I've been forced to skip meals. Having some snacks in my bag has allowed me to eat whenever there wasn't an option or a good, healthy option (pretzels and cookies don't qualify, sorry Delta!). And when meeting food is ordered and you're left wondering what to eat, you got some stuff in your bag to supplement or replace.

4. Walk as much as possible. Instead of sitting at your airport gate, walk. Walk around the terminals or in between them. I do this at the Atlanta airport all the time - especially if it's an early flight and I didn't get to exercise before I left. I also opt to walk instead of taking the train or the moving walkway. It feels nice to stretch legs before and after sitting on a plane. Also, if the area in which you are staying is safe enough, walk places instead of taking an Uber, Lyft, or taxi. It's a great way to get to know a city and your surroundings. When I travel for work, most of my days involve sitting inside in meetings. I try to walk outside as much as possible to make up for that. This tends to make me feel more energized in those meetings - without having to reach for more coffee or some sugar. 

5. Pack workout clothes and accessories. If you pack your workout clothes, you are committing to working out. It's hard to deny them when they are taking up precious space in your carryon. But also try to pack some items that take the pressure off the gym or running outside (you never know the weather). I usually pack a resistance band (I love these: and/or a simple jump rope. Also, think about what workout you want to do beforehand. Jot it down in the notes section on your phone. Walking into an unfamiliar gym early in the morning without a game plan is a sure fire way to have a frustrating, lackluster workout. 

Forgot workout clothes?: Don't underestimate the benefits of doing push ups, squats, lunges, core work etc in your room in your pjs (or underwear!). Something is sometimes better than nothing. 

The Mental and Physical Benefits of Walking

I love walking. It's a great low-impact exercise. It gets you outdoors. It helps with digestion after a big meal (walk to dinner next time or take the long route back to your car - you'll feel energized rather than lethargic). It improves your mood. It's a more active way to catch up with friends. And even short little walks can shake off those afternoon sugar cravings.

But did you know that walking also spurs creativity? 

Yep. Taking a shower isn't the only time a great idea may arise. Check out this Quartz article that discusses a recent study by Stanford that proves the long-held belief that walking influences the way we think. This serves as a great reminder for those of us who work inside to get outside and moving in between meetings. If you have a meeting with just one or two people that doesn't necessitate a computer, suggest a walking meeting instead. Walking also helps if you're trying to figure out something or need to clear your mind for a bit. Just go for a walk!

I try to take walking breaks or schedule walking-meetings as much as I can. We spend so much of our days in and out of conference rooms and air-conditioned buildings. Walking serves as a refreshing, rejuvenating activity that will give you more energy than that second (or third) cup of coffee. 


How to Get Back on Track After Vacation

With summer vacation in full swing, healthy routines are hard to keep. Hot temperatures make ice cream so tempting and poolside drinks hard to ignore - especially when you are hanging out with friends and family. There's nothing wrong with relaxing the rules and enjoying yourself. However, don't overindulge so much that you feel like you can't recover when you get back home - or that you need to do an extreme diet or detox. Try to keep elements of your routine in place while on vacation and it will be an easier transition. For example, if you workout daily, try to do something active each day - if not a workout, a stroll after dinner. Or if you usually have a mid-afternoon snack, make sure to pack something similar. This will help you resist grabbing those chips your mother-in-law brought or avoid overeating at dinner because you're starving (vacation dinners are typically eaten later than usual). Also, be sure to drink plenty of water. Not just because you had six beers on the beach but because it's freakin hot outside. 

Once you are back from holiday, though, what now? First, be easy on yourself. Even if you overindulged, going to the other extreme (deprivation) will backfire. Start slow. Drink lots of water. Go to the grocery store as soon as possible and stock up on your go-to healthy items. Plan and prepare ingredients for 3 quick, familiar healthy meals that you can easily make during the week. Go to sleep early. Write down your health goals again - reminding yourself of what you want to achieve and how far you've come in realizing them. 

Routines are based on habits. No matter if you drank too much or ate dessert after every meal, our bodies will remember the cues that spark our healthy routines. The key is to stick with what works, not punish ourselves by starting something extreme or new.