Summer is almost here and its roughly 12 weeks for June, July, and August. This summer I’ll be stepping back from active client work for my maternity leave, but I still care deeply about your health and wellness and so I’ve created a simple 12 weeks of summer program that is free, you can try any portion/week of it, or the whole thing. This is my gift to you- a path to better health that you can do on your own this summer. I want to hear about it if you choose to partake in any part of it! Send pictures or post to the Betterment Wellness Facebook page.
The challenge is really about trying something new for your health and wellness. Summer is a time of energy, growth, and outward change…this is true in nature and for us. You can feel it coming, right? The energy and warmth of the sun making us and everything around us grow and change. A perfect opportunity to try out some new habits and see what sticks. This is not a health bootcamp, detox or anything involving discipline or denial. We are adding some habits, trying and discovering what appeals to us and our bodies/minds. We won't make changes unless we feel the positive effects and/or enjoy the process. It's also hard to make so many changes all at once. We learn better by baby steps, and this is why I developed this summer challenge- in baby steps. But small changes over longer periods of time result in big changes. This Fall could look or feel different (better!) for you if you try all these weekly "experiments" as we go.
I’ve compiled 12 lifelong habits of healthy behaviors and I want you to try one each week. The goal is just to focus on that one habit each week, but if you find they are sticking and you enjoy them, feel free to let the habits continue and multiply- you’ll see even bigger results in how you feel and look. Nothing’s guaranteed- but this is a way to focus your energy and time and learn something new and positive about your health journey, not a quick fix. Let’s dive in- its that simple. Each week starts on a Monday and ends on the following Sunday.
Week 1 June 1-7 DRINK MORE WATER
By drinking more water we naturally decrease the sugary, caloric, or chemical filled drinks we usually consume. Add fresh lemon, mint, or cucumber instead. A great resource book: “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D. I find for some reason the cup I drink out of either makes me want to drink more or lose interest- find a favorite cup/water bottle. If you are cold, try it room temp or hot water like tea. Now that its getting warmer, maybe ice water is where its at for you. Don't like tap water? Invest in a Britta or Pur to take out the taste from conventional tap water.
Week 2 June 8-14 PRACTICE COOKING SWEET VEGETABLES
This was a fun one for me when I began focusing more on healthy eating. My body loved sweet veggies- still does. If you have a sweet tooth this might help mitigate it. Try sweet potatoes, carrots, cooked zucchini, fresh peas in the pod, beets, sautéed onions and yellow bell peppers. Try them with a small pat of grass fed butter like Kerrygold and kosher salt- brings out the sweetness.
Week 3 June 15- 21 INCREASE GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES
Try butter lettuce, romaine, kale, spinach, mustard greens, chard, frisee, red leaf, etc.
The majority of Americans don’t get enough leafy greens, which is unfortunate because they offer us so much nutrition that we need. Whether you add them to your smoothies to hide them, kick your salad consumption up a notch, or sauté them, just try eating leafy greens everyday this week. So many things can benefit from greens thrown on or in- eggs, sandwiches, wraps, under cottage cheese, sautéed in curries, or soups. If you eat out, go to Subway and load on the greens. Make it easy on yourself by purchasing pre-washed bagged salad greens if you want- just get the ones that are only greens and add your own dressings and ingredients. Some of those pre-made salads have as much sugar and fat as a dessert…A simple and delightful vinaigrette is 1/3 cup any vinegar you like, 1 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake and toss.
Week 4 June 22- 28 GET MORE SLEEP
Figure out how much sleep you get a night (not hours in bed, but asleep). Add an hour each night this week and see how you feel. Are you more productive during the day? Easier to get up in the morning? Figure out what kind of evening routine you need in order to get to bed at a regular time, to unwind and prepare for peaceful sleep. Mind the smart phones and laptops in bed- they tell your brain to stay awake and alert. Try reading a real paper book, a bath, quiet music, talking with your loved one, stretching, journaling.
Week 5 June 29- July 5 REPLACE YOUR DESSERT(S) WITH FRESH FRUIT
Summer is a bounty of fruit. Treat yourself to the most appealing and gorgeous fruit you can find. Decide if you like it room temperature, cold, or even frozen! Nosh on the fruit instead of dessert anytime this week dessert presents itself. How do you feel? I love cherries, berries, and all the stone fruits- peaches, nectarines, etc. If you particularly love a certain kind of fruit, buy it in bulk at the farmers market and freeze it so you can indulge during the winter too. Organic tends to taste better, but may be smaller. Don't let size determine how they will taste- larger doesn't always mean more sweet.
Week 6 July 6- 12 EXPERIMENT WITH PROTEINS
Everyone has a protein amount that suits them best for their time in their life. What’s yours? Are you getting enough? Too much? Right or wrong kind for you? Try out some plant-based sources proteins like tofu, edamame, beans, peas, tempeh, or quinoa. Instead of more traditional meat like chicken, turkey, pork or beef, think outside the box by adding kefir (a probiotic drink with more protein than milk), or Greek yogurt, nuts, or eggs to breakfasts, or fresh seafood to salads. Even upping your whole grains vs. refined will add more protein. Add flax or hemp seeds to smoothies. Look up some foods you like online- how much protein do they contain? Think outside the meat box;). Even broccoli has protein, especially when tossed with a tahini (sesame) dressing.
Week 7 July 13- 19 EAT FEWER PROCESSED FOODS
People are sometimes confused with what is considered a processed food. Basically, its anything thats been altered by the food industry and often that means you don't know what went into it, or what was taken out of it before it got to you. A banana let's say, is not processed. You peel and eat it. Anything that comes in a box, wrapper, things like that are an easy way to tell. See if your refrigerator this week looks more like INGREDIENTS (produce, milk, eggs, meat, whole grains, etc) than BOXES and CONTAINERS with marketing. Anything with a kids cartoon character on it is a dead giveaway. Or anything that tells you its “healthy,” “diet,” “lite,” “lowfat,” etc - broccoli doesn’t need marketing. By making this switch (which can be a big deal for some people), your trash will decrease quite a bit too. Just try, shoot for effort and not perfection, most Americans rely heavily on processed foods so its a bit deal to switch. You may notice how "fake" or sugary, salty, or just different processed foods taste after making your own.
Week 8 July 20-26 NURTURE YOUR BODY
This is going to look different for everyone. Me, I tend to run my cylinders on high most of the time so nurturing for me looks like a bath, sleep, massage, or a relaxing walk. Maybe you need to talk out your emotions with a friend, maybe you need some alone time, or more social time. Maybe you need some romance. Maybe you need some inspiration or beauty in your life. Maybe you need some novelty or a time out. Take the first day to decide what nurturing yourself looks like. Spend the rest of the week making it happen!
Week 9 July 27- August 2 WRITE 3 THINGS YOU ARE GRATEFUL FOR EVERY DAY
Write in down, reflect on your "gratefuls." Is there a theme, something you are genuinely regularly grateful for or is it hard to think of 3 everyday? If you are grateful for a particular person, go the extra step and tell them. See how it make both of you feel. This is free good feelings, people! You can't bottle and sell this!
Week 10 August 3-9 GET OUTSIDE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
The weather should be consistently good by now (no guarantees:). Spend every moment you can outside. Notice natures patterns and how they mirror our own when we are at peace. What can you take with you from the outdoors when you go back inside? Try being outside at a novel time. Early morning? After sunset? At sunset? At dawn? I love the moment when frog croaks turn to birds singing, I know sunrise is on its way.
Week 11 August 10-16 GET YOUR BLOOD PUMPING and/or MUSCLES TIRED
Did you enjoy being outside last week? Did it inspire you to move more? Maybe take a walk, or hike? Bike ride or go fishing? Walk to do an errand instead of driving? You can choose this week- something that will get your heart pumping or something that challenges your muscles (maybe both?). See how many times you can get in this week, try for daily. Don’t call it "working out" or exercising. Move your body and see what it is wanting. How much time is good for you? I can’t believe how sometimes 10-15 minutes is all I need for a complete mood and energy makeover, and its less intimidating than longer workouts so I am happy to do it again the next day.
Week 12 August 17-23 TRY A NEW WHOLE GRAIN (or two or three)
This can be for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It can be hot or cold or room temperature. Have you tried a grain salad? Just take the vinaigrette from the earlier salad week, chop some veggies and add a grain you've already cooked, no need for green leafy lettuce in this salad! For breakfast, cook up a heartier grain the day before, like chewy wheat berries, drizzle maple syrup over with a dollop of yogurt and fruit. If making soup, throw in some bulgur or pearl barley. Grains are a really satisfying way to show off other flavors of sauces or dressings. White rice is not technically a whole grain. Try brown, or one you haven’t heard of before. I love couscous- takes 10 minutes! Just make sure you flavor it with a flavorful broth like a rich chicken broth- it will take on any flavor because it is so mild. With no salt it won’t taste like much. Whole rolled oats are another option, or even air popped popcorn. Have fun! Find the Bob’s Red Mill section of your grocery store- its a great brand with a lot of choices.
BONUS WEEK August 24-30: combine together your favorite weeks- how many can you incorporate?! How do you feel August 31st?
I want to try this in the Winter too, but for inner growth, when our roots grow deeper and our outward energy slows a bit. Stay tuned and keep me posted with this first one- have fun with this!