Using Apps to improve health and fitness

It’s amazing how many apps there are for anything and everything you can think of!  It can be a little overwhelming trying to decide which one to try and also time consuming trying out a few different apps before you find the one that works for you.

I’ve tried a few apps for both nutrition and fitness, and I thought I’d share the ones that have worked well for me.  Most of them are free.  Please comment and share any apps that you have found that work for you!

Lose It!  Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.05.10 (Free)

This is a great food tracking app no matter what you are tracking…strictly counting your macros, wanting to watch your calories, lose weight, etc.  I found that this app easier to use than a couple other food tracking apps.  They have a good pre-made list of foods and common foods from restaurants.  You can also add your own recipes and it will calculate the nutrition information from that (for example, I’ve added the Meatza recipe that I shared with you awhile back).   It saves the foods you eat often (i.e. coffee with cream, or 6″ portion of cucumbers on a Subway sub) so they are easy for you to add.  I didn’t use the app for this, but you can also include your exercise which would probably be helpful if you were trying to lose weight.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.20.58

Map My Run (Free)  

I like this app for tracking distance.  I was recently involved in a challenge where we had to track our kilometres (can also track distance in miles) and this app worked fantastic.  You can pick your exercise…running inside/outside, biking, walking, stairs, etc.  It will show a map of your route, monitor total kms, show your pace.  You can also connect this app to tracking devices such as a FitBit.  This developer has other apps (I haven’t tried them) such as ‘Map My Fitness’ and ‘Map My Hike’.  I would assume they would be similar to this app.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.33.22

Bit Timer (Free)

This timer is very versatile but very simple to use.  There are 3 options…1) Choose your work time 2) Choose your rest time 3) Choose how many rounds.  The numbers are nice and big on your phone screen for easy viewing.  This app works best for interval training.  The ‘work time’ only goes up to 4min, but you can do up to 20 rounds.

Pinterest (Free)Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.45.33

I’m not sure if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard of, or used, Pinterest…but this app is great for everything!  You can search for specific recipes (i.e. gluten free meals, sugar free muffins, pork dishes, etc).  You can also search for workouts (i.e. Crossfit, yoga, leg workouts, etc).  The possibilities are endless…inspirational quotes, meal plans, meals that fit into your macro plans, on and on.

InstagramScreen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.52.18

You can follow inspirational people on Instagram, also follow nutritionists who post recipes for food, fitness enthusiasts who post workouts, etc.

 

 

FacebookScreen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.51.51

Facebook is similar to Instagram as far as how to use the app for health and fitness.  There are millions of people to follow and pages to like with so much fitness and nutrition information.  You can find lots of local fitness opportunities (most fitness pages where you live will advertise events on Facebook).

 

Again, please share some of your favourite apps…I’d like to find some new ones that can help keep me on track as well!

Advertisements

What motivates you?

I bet many of you struggle to maintain motivation to eat healthy, be consistently physically active, and many other healthy lifestyle struggles.

As a Peer Fitness Trainer, I have recently started trying out a few challenges with some of my coworkers that I can tell want to make some changes in their lives.  These challenges are still fairly recent and new, but so far they are appearing to be quite successful and a lot of fun for both myself and the person achieving them (way to go to those people who’ve successfully completed one of my challenges!).

But, it’s got me wondering…why do people need some sort of challenge from an external source (i.e. me) to hold them accountable for their actions?  Why isn’t the internal motivation of “I want to be healthier” or “I want to feel better” or “I want my pants to fit better” enough?

I definitely don’t know the answer, but I do know that external motivation is the key factor in a lot of people achieving their health and wellness goals (myself included).  Think about it…people sign up for a fitness class with a friend.  Why?  Because they know they will keep each other accountable and actually attend the classes.  People sign up for group sports for the same reason…accountability.  Money can also be a motivating factor….if I’m spending all this $$$ on these classes I better actually attend the classes.  Weight loss groups work in a similar way…being held accountable to the group, or the weigh ins, or the inches lost, etc, etc, etc.

I don’t care what motivates you, but you HAVE to find that person or reason to get yourself going!!  Here are some suggestions for keeping yourself motivated and accountable:

  1. Find a buddy!  This would be my #1 recommendation!  Find a friend who has the same interests as you (whether it’s fitness or nutrition) and hold each other accountable at all times.  Start a FB group, or text message group and talk as often as you need to in order to stay on track.
  2. Ensure your goals are SMART:
    S:  Specific.  “I’m going to walk 30min a day 3x a week” vs. “I’m going to walk more”
    M: Measurable.  “Eat at least 4 servings of vegetables a day” vs. “Eat more veggies”
    A: Achievable.  If you hate running, do NOT make a goal that you are going to run!
    R: Realistic.  “I’m going to do yoga 5x a week and run 3x a week and play soccer 4x a week…as well as work full time, spend time with your family, etc”.  That is definitely not a realistic goal in my world!
    T: Time.  There has to be a deadline.  For example…my first SMART goals I made with my coworkers had a deadline.  Once that deadline hits I made contact with them to see how they did (and also contacted them through their challenge to see how it was going, and made them aware that they could contact me at any time).  And, it allowed us to make new SMART goals with a new deadline.
  3. You have to want to make a change.  Be honest with yourself.  If you have no ambition or desire to make the change (no matter what it is or how big or small it is) it won’t be successful.  Everyone wants to be healthier or fitter or look better in a bathing suit, but if you aren’t serious about it it’s not going to work.  You just have to think a little harder about a more achievable or SMART goal that you actually want to accomplish and can be successful at.
  4. This one fits in with the “T” of SMART goals….but make sure your goal has a deadline.  Training towards something will also help you be successful.  Some examples…a run (there’s tons of races around Saskatchewan and area in the summer!), a physical test (our PFT test, a hiring physical, etc), your wedding, someone else’s wedding, a certain birthday/anniversary, etc, etc, etc.  Having that end goal is often huge for people!

I can blabber on all I want about how to get motivated, but unless you find that thing that gets you started all this talk is just talk!  I just hope one of my suggestions will sink in and help one of you!

Please comment and share with me what motivates you!  I’d love to hear it!

Front Label Trickery

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 15.38.00.png
http://www.theexercisepro.com

I would bet you have seen some of these health claims (& likely many others) on food labels of items you’ve bought.  And I’d bet that you have been suckered in to buying items based on these claims…I’ll admit that I have.

Here are some truths behind some of the common health claims you’ll see on food labels in Canada…

“Calorie Free” – less than 5 calories per serving size.  The “per serving size” is the catch here…you then have to look at the nutrition label to see how big the serving size is.  The serving size may only be ¼ or less of the actual size you’ll eat at a time.

“Low calorie” – 40 calories per serving size.  Same catch as above…you have to check the serving size.

“Reduced calorie or fat or sodium ” – the food is processed or otherwise modified so that it contains at least 25% less calories/fat/sodium than the regular version.

“Fat-free, Non-fat, etc” – less than 0.5g per serving size.

“Low fat” – less than 3g of fat per serving size.

“Lean” (as in ‘lean ground beef’) – contains 10% fat or less.

“Extra lean” (as in ‘extra lean ground beef’) – contains 7.5% fat or less.

“No saturated fat” and “Trans fat free” – less than 0.2g of saturated fatty acids or trans fats per serving size.

“Low in saturated fat” – less than 2g of saturated fatty acids per serving size.

“Cholesterol free” – less than 2mg of cholesterol per serving size.

“Low cholesterol” – less than 20mg of cholesterol per serving size.

“Sodium free” – less than 5mg of sodium per serving size.

“Low in sodium” – 140mg or less of sodium per serving size.

“Sugar free” – less than 0.5g of sugars per serving size.

“No added sugar” – no added sugar, and no ingredients that contain added sugars. (“unsweetened” falls under this category as well).

“Source of fibre” – contains 2g or more of fibre per serving size.

“High source of fibre” – contains 4g or more of fibre per serving size.

Any vitamin or mineral that claims it’s a “source of” – contains >5% recommended daily intake (RDI) of that item.

“Good source of” or “High in” a vitamin or mineral – contains >15% RDI of that item.

“Excellent source of” a vitamin or mineral – contains >25% RDI of that item.

“Fortified” or “Enriched” – usually means the food has been altered or processed.

“Natural” – the manufacturer started with a natural source, however once processed it usually doesn’t resemble anything natural.

“Organic” – trust only “certified organically grown” if you want true organic foods.

“Made with wheat, multigrain, etc” – doesn’t tell you how much whole grains are in the product.  Look for 100% whole grain products.
The list is long, but all items in the list are similar and misleading.  You MUST check the serving size as there are no regulations on this (meaning, the manufacturer can make the serving size ridiculously small and then include a health claim from the list above).  You also need to be aware of what “high in” or “low in” means in regards to fats and nutrients.  Zero does not mean zero in the world of health claims!

And as I said in the previous post…it is best to choose items with no ingredient list when possible (whole foods), or choose items with a small ingredient list and items you can pronounce!

References:

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/nutrient-content/eng/1389905941652/1389905991605

http://www.freedieting.com/food_labels.htm

 

 

 

 

Work lunch recipes

I know a lot of people struggle with what to pack in their lunches for work and I’m no different.  Especially when I’m trying to plan lunches for 4-5 twelve hour shifts in a row, and when you love to snack as much as I do!

Thought I’d share a few of my favourite healthier recipes that I like to bring to work to help keep me full throughout the day.  Most of them I have found on Pinterest, which is a great place to find all kinds of recipes for all kinds of food.  And, I’m big on normal ingredients…I don’t want to have to hunt for some oddball ingredients that cost a ton or will sit unused in my pantry forever if the recipe is no good!

Applesauce Carrot Muffins
These are delicious, and fairly healthy.  The sweetness comes from honey and applesauce.  The only un-fun thing about making this is having to shred ¾ cup of carrots…I hate shredding carrots!

Quinoa Breakfast Bars
These are also delicious and are great if you have a sweet tooth like me (if you add the chocolate chips…which of course I do!).  I adjust this recipe most times I make it depending what nuts I have on hand, and don’t usually put raisins in.  I do not have chia seeds (nor do I know where to buy them…maybe Bulk Barn?), so I never add those.  Quinoa may be an odd ingredient for some, but I bought a bag at Costco and it lasts forever.

Quinoa Omelette Bites
Egg “muffins” do not have to be just a breakfast food.  These are filling and full of protein with the quinoa and eggs.  I used whole eggs, not egg whites, and I added some chopped up ham.  This is another recipe that you can add whatever ingredients you like…meat or other veggies (onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc).

Peanut Butter Granola Bars
These are sooooo yummy!  Medjool dates may not be a common pantry item for you, but I make these fairly often that I use them up.  I also vary the nuts and seeds that I put in based on what I have on hand (or what’s on sale…nuts are expensive!).

Please comment and share some of your favourite “snack” recipes that you make for your lunches.
Happy eating!

 

 

 

Shift work sleep tips.

If you’re anything like me…the older you’re getting, the harder you find it to sleep between night shifts or “turn around” after your last night shift.  I miss the days when I had to set an alarm to get up for my night shifts!

Here are some of my tips for sleeping during the day (between night shifts):

  • If it’s light out when you drive home after a night shift (which it soon will be in Saskatchewan!) wear sunglasses to help block out the bright sunlight.
  • Block out all light from your bedroom.  Either use an eye mask or install blackout curtains to block the sun.
  • Use a white noise machine or fan to help block out sounds from outside if you live on a noisy street….traffic, voices, dogs barking, etc.  You could also use ear plugs, but I always found that they would fall out.
  • Don’t drink caffeinated beverages a few hours prior to the end of your shift.  Some people are more sensitive than others to this, you’ll figure it out by trial and error.
  • Avoid the “nightcap”.  Alcohol is a bad idea before bed.  It may seem to improve sleep initially, but tolerance can quickly develop and can interrupt sleep.
  • This should go without saying, but TURN YOUR PHONE OFF!  Your non-shift working family and friends do not know or understand your schedule so will text or call you right in the middle of your sleep without fail!
  • After my last night shift I know I have to get up by noon in order to be able to “turn around” back to a regular sleep pattern.  I also try to schedule a few appointments and/or spend some time outside to keep me busy and awake for the rest of the day.  I may go to bed early, but by the next day I’m usually good to go.
  • When not working nights and/or you are on days off, try to have a regular sleep pattern (go to bed and wake up at the same time each day) and try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.

If none of these tips work for you and you’re struggling with sleeping either before, during, or after your night shifts I would suggest speaking to your doctor.  There are numerous natural sleep aids (herbal teas, supplements, etc.) and prescription sleep aids.  But like any supplement or prescription it is important to talk to your health care provider to fully understand their use and potential interactions with other medications you may be taking.

Hopefully some of these can work for you!  Happy sleeping!