Healthy Byte: Confidence through Fitness

Originally Posted HERE

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Have you ever felt unathletic or out of place at the gym? So has celebrity trainer Massy Arias, and she’s tired of the exclusive nature of the fitness industry. “If you have a body, you’re an athlete,” Arias tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Fitness changed my life and shaped me as a person. I want to help women find their confidence through movement and through fitness.”

Arias strives to celebrate and promote inclusion, both in the fitness industry and as a beauty ambassador for CoverGirl. “I’m trying to change how women look at their bodies and find confidence in themselves, no matter what their body type,” Arias says. “The more awareness we bring to the space of beauty and diversity, the more pressure we’re putting on brands to actually include and start making products that really help all of us.”

For Arias, embracing fitness was a life-or-death situation. She used it to battle crippling depression that left her weak and malnourished. Now, she uses it to inspire her 2.5 million Instagram followers to turn their lives around, too.

But even though fitness saved her life, Arias knows the industry is imperfect, lacks diverse representation, and tends to leave out certain groups of people and perpetuate a harmful body ideal. So she’s working to change it.

As an individual with a large platform, she feels it is her responsibility to counter these stereotypes. Arias focuses on showing her followers that a healthy lifestyle fits for people of different shapes, sizes, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. She offers fitness and nutrition tips that work — like her healthier pho recipe and equipment-free exercises.

“I think it’s important in my industry to be diverse. I’m a Latina, if my parents would have put me in to play any sport, I think I would have been an amazing athlete,” Arias says. “I will say with confidence that in the Latina community, girls do ‘girl things’ and boys do ‘boys things.’ That’s not how I’m going to raise my daughter.”

Arias also believes diversity and body inclusivity go hand in hand, and she wants people to know that curves can be healthy, too.

“You don’t need to be lean in order to have health. You don’t need to have my muscles. I lift heavy and I have a certain nutrition, and therefore I look this way,” Arias says. “But then you have someone who’s a yogi, someone who may not be muscular and is still healthy, and you have someone with more curves, and that’s still healthy, someone who’s taking care of themselves and may carry more body fat than I do.”

By working to break down stereotypes, Arias has made strides in her own self-love journey as an Afro-Latina. “For so many years, I was pressing my hair, dying it and doing all these crazy things. And I never had the courage to say, you know what, I’m just going to chop it,” says Arias. “I think I’m in a platform right now where I have so many opportunities coming my way, that when I gave birth to my daughter and I saw this little rich chocolate brown girl with curly hair, it had me question myself and my character. The one person she needs to relate to is me, and [cutting my hair] is something I did for her and for my community.”

Ultimately, Arias wants to inspire others to embrace their uniqueness with confidence and happiness. “We’re like ice cream. We come in so many flavors and so many colors — why not embrace us? There’s not a specific mold of what beauty is and who can be beautiful,” she says. “As cliché as it sounds, we need to be comfortable being us, and when we exude confidence, even if you put a ton of makeup on, your personality is gonna make you more beautiful. You can be really pretty and have all this makeup on, but that’s not what makes you beautiful.”

 

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Wednesday Wisdom

“The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials,

have known struggles,

have known loss,

and have found their way out of the depths.”

~  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Healthy Byte: Emotional Intelligence

Originally Posted HERE

Experts say the ability to read, understand and respond to emotions in ourselves and others is crucial in predicting our health, happiness and success.

Story highlights

  • Emotional intelligence is not only the ability to read our emotions and those of others
  • It’s also the ability understand and label those emotions, to express and regulate them
It’s our emotional intelligence that gives us the ability to read our instinctive feelings and those of others. It also allows us to understand and label emotions as well as express and regulate them, according to Yale University’s Marc Brackett.
Most of us would probably like to think that we can do all of the above. We spot and understand emotions in ourselves and others and label them accurately in order to guide our thoughts and actions.
But many of us tend to overestimate our own emotional intelligence, according to Brackett, a professor in the Child Study Center at Yale and founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
That’s important because experts say the ability to read, understand and respond to emotions in ourselves and other people is a crucial factor in predicting our health, happiness and personal and professional success.
So maybe we all need to take a breath and invest a little more time in schooling ourselves on what it means to be emotionally intelligent.

Understanding emotional intelligence

The theory of emotional intelligence — and the term itself — originated at Yale and the University of New Hampshire. Peter Salovey, the 23rd president of Yale University, and John “Jack” Mayer, professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire, wrote up the theory in 1990, Brackett said.
Their work demonstrated how emotions had a marked impact on an individual’s thinking and behavior, said Robin Stern, associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and an educator, author and licensed psychoanalyst.
Experts have continued to build on that framework to refine definitions of what exactly is at the core of of emotional intelligence. “Emotional intelligence is being smart about your feelings. It’s how to use your emotions to inform your thinking and use your thinking to inform your emotions,” she said.
It’s having an awareness of how your emotions drive your decisions and behaviors so you can effectively engage with and influence others, said Sara Canaday, a leadership speaker and author. Individuals who are emotionally intelligent tend to be empathetic, can look at situations from an alternative point of view, are considered open-minded, bounce back from challenges and pursue their goals despite any obstacles they might face, according to Canaday.
“Some people think of emotional intelligence as a soft skill or the ability or the tendency to be nice. It’s really about understanding what is going on for you in the moment so that you can make conscious choices about how you want to use your emotions and how you want to manage yourself and how you want to be seen in the world,” Stern said.
“People with more emotional intelligence are healthier, happier and more effective,” Brackett said.

Why it matters

Canaday further suggests that emotional intelligence is a better predictor of career success than an impressive résumé or a high IQ score.
Wait, really?
Well … just reflect on your own work experiences, Canaday suggests.
Has anyone you worked with ever been let go or asked to leave, even when they had the competency or technical skills for the job?
“We might be hired for technical talents, but we are often fired because we lack emotional intelligence,” Canaday said.
Individuals with a low level of emotional intelligence can be successful, she said, but she argues that those individuals could be even more successful if they had a higher level of emotional intelligence.
“It is how well you can collaborate, how well you engage with others and influence. It’s the stories you can tell, the way you can bring data to life in a way that connects with others. Those are the things that are going to set you apart.”

Testing emotional intelligence

Behavioral scientists have created a number of emotional intelligence self-assessments, usually broken down into “your ability to manage yourself, your ability to manage relationships, your self-awareness and your social awareness,” according to Canaday.
Your results will be measured along with others who have taken the assessment to give some indication of where you fall on the spectrum from low to high emotional intelligence.
But Brackett warns that “measurement is a tricky subject.”
In his early research, he found that people tend to overestimate their emotional intelligence, which is why he believes you must measure it through performance assessments. In a performance assessment, people are required to problem-solve; they must decode facial expressions or strategize in an emotionally tense situation. That way, their knowledge and skills can be tested as opposed to their beliefs about them.
Another form of an emotional intelligence test is a “360 assessment.”
In the workplace setting, a 360 assessment is a process involving feedback from colleagues and supervisors evaluating a person emotional intelligence. Canaday believes that we often “see ourselves differently than others do.”
When a coworker takes the 360 assessment of you it provides an opportunity to compare it to your self-assessment. Another way to take a 360 assessment without undergoing a formal test is to ask a trusted adviser, perhaps a current or former boss, to evaluate your emotional intelligence, she said.
But, Canaday cautions, If you ask for someone’s feedback, be prepared to accept what they share. “This stuff can feel very personal. On one han,d we say we want to learn and grow, but on the other hand, we want to be accepted just the way we are, and those two human traits run counter.”

Can I improve my emotional intelligence?

So maybe you need to improve your emotional intelligence. How do you do that?
From the earliest ages, children should be taught how to recognize their emotions, understand what those emotions mean and label them accurately in order to to express and manage themselves, Stern stern.
For adults who did not receive a solid education on emotional intelligence, improving will require some hard work. Canaday suggests creating an action plan including specific goals. “Pick one or two areas where you want to grow, and get some advice on how to best start to embody whatever factor of emotional intelligence you are trying to develop.”
If you are trying to gain better control of your anger, for example, you might find a healthy outlet for it — whether it be yoga, meditation or boxing.
Canaday also suggests seeking out perspectives from those who may not agree with you. “Be intentional about that. Take active steps to do that. If you constantly surround yourself with people who believe just like you do, then you are hearing the same conversations, and you are not growing, and you are not learning to be open to perspectives.”
Brackett advises seeking out strategies that are effective for managing emotions. Practice them and then evaluate how those strategies are working for you. It’s important to “spend time reflecting on and thinking about your influence and how people respond to your emotions, be more self- and socially aware about your presence.”
Stern suggests prolonging the time between when you are triggered by something and when you respond. Pause, slow down and take a deep breath. Imagine what your best self looks like. Taking the time to pause and think about what your best self would do in each situation may help you avoid letting your emotions control you. You are allowing yourself time to manage your emotions.

How we talk to ourselves can also have a huge impact on our emotions and our health if that self-talk is not positive, Stern says. She suggests that we would never talk to another individual the way we often talk to ourselves.

“There is no question in my mind that if people were to really appreciate how important emotions are, allowed themselves to have emotions, made space for other people to have their emotions and handled those emotions skillfully in the service of making a better world, we would in fact have a better world.”

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Healthy Byte: Gaining Fat or Muscle?

Originally Posted HERE

Most of us have gotten the memo: strength training is a must for women who want to improve their health, feel fit and strong, and lose weight. But lifting weights can be an intimidating thing if you’re new to the game. When they first start strength training regularly, some women say they gain weight or feel themselves getting bigger, which can be a turn-off. If that sounds familiar, don’t go anywhere. We chatted with two experts who will explain exactly why that happens and what you can do to prevent it.

“As you demand more from your muscles with weight training, it develops microscopic tears in your muscle,” Joel Freeman, Beachbody Super Trainer, told POPSUGAR. “Then your muscle [is] going to regrow bigger. So with that, it’s going to be heavier.”

“Even though we know muscle weighs more than fat, we see the number creeping up and you definitely freak out.”

 This helps to explain why muscle has a greater density than fat, so if you compare the same volume of muscle and fat, muscle would likely weigh more because it takes up less space than an equal mass of fat. If you went from doing zero weightlifting to doing a few sessions a week, the scale will show an increase in weight, because even though your body is becoming leaner, you’re putting on extra muscle where fat used to be. “Even though we know muscle [is denser] than fat, we see the number creeping up and you definitely freak out,” Joel said. “Even my wife deals with it, and she’s been in fitness her whole life. She’s a former gymnast and lifts heavy. Acording to her BMI, she’s borderline overweight, but she is anything but — it’s muscle!”

Don’t let this discourage you! It’s all part of the process. As you build up all that muscle, you’re also revving up your metabolism, which will help you burn more fat in the long run.

“If you’re getting too big, it has nothing to do with your training in the gym. It’s what you eat.”

Magnus Lygdback, a celebrity trainer who has worked with Alicia Vikander, Gal Gadot, and Katy Perry, also chimed in on this topic. “If you’re getting too big, it has nothing to do with your training in the gym,” he told POPSUGAR. “It’s what you eat.”

It’s that simple. If you feel like your body is getting bigger, rather than leaner, as you’re lifting weights, Magnus insists this has nothing to do with your workouts. It’s all about your diet. Easier said than done, we know, because the bottom line is, you get hungrier when you do more strength training.

“It is really easy to be hungry,” Joel confirmed. “That’s how your body reacts when you’re strength training, so it really comes down to making sure that your macros are measured out. Today it’s so easy to measure your macros using apps.”

He recommends following the very simple formula of eating 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent healthy fats. This should keep everything balanced and help prevent any extreme weight gain.

“It is really easy to be hungry. That’s how your body reacts when you’re strength training.”

 “Food is a big part of life, and it should be enjoyed,” Magnus told POPSUGAR. “I hate the ‘cheat day.’ Seventeen out of 20 meals should be on point, and you should enjoy life three out of 20. So it’s up to you when you want to do those three meals out of 20, but that’s my philosophy.” And it seemed to work for Alicia, because she looks lean AF in the trailer for Tomb Raider.
To sum it all up, if you feel like you’re not getting leaner from strength training, don’t panic. You will inevitably see a little weight gain on the scale, but eventually you will start slimming down. And if you don’t, look closely at what you’re eating, because it’s so easy to overeat when you’re lifting weights. But sticking to your personal macros and following Magnus’s 17/20 rule will certainly get you to where you want to be.

 

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Healthy Byte: Running on Empty

Originally Posted HERE

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There are two types of exercisers in this world: those who must eat breakfastbefore a sweat sesh, and those that swear it’s better to exercise sans fuel. So who’s right?

To help clear the air, Kristin Speaker, Ph.D, researcher and weight loss coach at Anschutz Health and Wellness Center in Aurora, Colorado, weighed in on the topic. Here’s what you need to know.

Does Fasted Cardio Really Burn More Fat?
In short, yes. Studies have found that exercising in a fasted state can burn nearly 20 percent more fat when compared to sweating it out post-nosh. (Ready to shape up, pronto? Check out Women’s Health’s Ignite routine created by Next Fitness Star Nikki Metzger.)

“The fuel your body uses to burn energy is dependent on a host of factors, the first being whether or not you’ve just eaten,” says Speaker. “Your body likes to burn the fuel that you’ve eaten first. So if you don’t have any fuel because you didn’t eat (meaning you’re in a fasted state), then your body turns to what it has stored away and works to burn that.”

But it all depends on what kind of workout you’re doing. “In general, the easier the exercise, the more actual fat you’re going to burn during the workout,” she says. For example, if you go for a 30-minute walk and cover two miles at a slow, steady pace, then Speaker says you’ll torch approximately 200 calories. If you’ve been fasting, your body will likely burn body fat, because the rate of energy production (a.k.a. how hard you were working) was really low and fat was easily accessible.

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On the flip side, if you go for a tough run, then your body starts to burn carbs instead of just fat. “When you go higher in intensity, your body can’t use fat fast enough, so it burns some fat and some carbohydrates,” says Speaker.

That doesn’t mean slow and steady wins, though. Remember that your body only burns more fat during the actual workout when you slow your roll. Numerous studies have shown that high-intensity interval training stokes your metabolism and keeps burning fat long after your routine is done, so depending on how hard you worked, tough sessions may win out after you hit the showers.

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But What if You’ve Got No Energy?
It’s clear that busting out cardio before breakfast can be beneficial. But what if you feel like you don’t have enough energy to exercise before you’ve eaten? Well, that’s nonsense, according to Speaker. “You have plenty of energy in your muscle and fat stores to give your body what it needs to exercise,” she says. “Your liver provides glucose for your body, and you don’t really start tapping into that until you deplete the glycogen stores in your muscles. Depending on how fed you were the day before and how trained you are, you have about an hour-and-a-half to two hours before you even dip into your liver glucose.”

In other words, you’re good to do about an hour of cardio, max, while you’re fasted, says Speaker.

Of course, if you’re upping the intensity or going any longer than that, it’s important to start fueling, perhaps with energy chews or gels. But refueling post-workout is what’s really important, so your muscles can start repairing the tiny tears they endure during exercise, says Speaker. One cool upside: Fasting primes your body for the nutrients you’re about to give it. “You’ll better absorb protein, and your body is going to know right where to put it because you’ve used energy, creating space for new energy to go in,” she says. “So protein and carbohydrates will go back into the muscles to help them refuel, as opposed to going into fat stores.”

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When It’s an Issue to Sweat Before You Eat
If you’re generally in good health, there aren’t too many downsides to consider so long as you’re doing cardio (it’s a whole different ballgame for strength training), says Speaker. The main issue: Those on a low-carb diet, like Paleo diet followers, may struggle to bust out their best cardio workout because their livers don’t have a lot of fuel readily available, and it’s likely that they’re not fully recovering in between workouts because they’re not refueling their glycogen stores, she explains. But still, that’s not a serious health threat. “You’ll just hit a wall and your body will signal you to stop,” says Speaker.

Your appetite post-workout may be affected, too. One study found that when runners hit the treadmill for an hour without eating first, they were more hungry than those who chowed down ahead of exercise.

It All Comes Down to Personal Preference

Working out in a fasted state is a big mental game, says Speaker. “If someone believes they’re going to pass out if they haven’t eaten and they really think they have to get something down before they work out, then I’m going to suggest that they eat,” she says. “It’s not that they physically need the food—they psychologically do. And that’s just as valid.”

 

 

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Healthy Byte: The Hype of Fads

With the rise of standing desks, office workers hope to brush off the health risks linked to prolonged sitting, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and early death. But they might do well to walk calories off instead, a new study suggests.

In one of the few studies to carefully count the calories people burn while sitting at a desk, standing, or taking a leisurely stroll, researchers found little difference between being plopped down or upright. Standing for an hour might burn off an extra nine calories or so, about the amount in a single gummy bear. Slow walking, on the other hand, incinerated 2.4 to 2.7-fold more calories than standing or sitting, respectively. If office workers fit in an hour of strolling throughout each day—tallying trips to the bathroom, walks to the printer, or strides on a treadmill desk—they could easily burn through an extra 130 calories. That’s a little more than what previous research suggests could help people keep pounds off, the authors report in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

“If you’re looking for weight control or just solely at the energy expenditure, standing isn’t that much more beneficial than sitting,” Seth Creasy, an exercise physiologist at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study, told Ars. Of course, calorie burning isn’t the only reason people might choose a standing desk. Being upright could be beneficial for productivity or posture, Creasy said. However, more research is needed to know if those benefits are real because the studies that have been done so far have come up with mixed or inconclusive results.

For energy use, though, the literature is getting pretty clear. In past studies looking into the differences between standing and sitting, researchers found small changes in calorie burningsimilar to those Creasy and his colleagues found. With their new study, they tried to nail those calories down for good and look at more than one single activity at a time. No one gets to the office and sits, stands, or walks for eight hours straight, Creasy explained. People switch positions, take breaks, and move around, he said.

To see if there were any effects of those shifts, Creasy and colleagues set up an experiment with activity combinations. With a total of 74 healthy volunteers, the researchers randomly assigned 18 to sit at a desk with a computer for 15 minutes then stand without fidgeting for 15 minutes. Another 18 participants sat and watched television for 15 minutes and then walked. Twenty started with slow walking—at a self-selected speed of around two and half miles per hour—and then sat and watched TV. And the last 18 stood and then sat at a desk with a computer.

During each 30-minute activity combination, the researchers had the participants fitted with face masks, which basically measured their exhaust. This allowed the researchers to precisely calculate how many calories they were burning.

The researchers were curious if the order of activities changed how much energy participants used overall. For instance, perhaps starting with a walk would rev up calorie burning in subsequent sitting. But it turns out the order doesn’t matter. There was a tiny uptick, but nothing statistically or clinically significant, Creasy said. In the other combinations, the order didn’t matter either.

In general, 15 minutes of walking burned an average of 55.9 calories, sitting with a computer burned 19.63 calories, sitting and watching TV burned 18.66 calories, and standing burned 21.92 calories. There was no statistical significance between the sitting activities and standing, the researchers noted. And even if it does result in a few extra calories burned, it’s unclear if that could result in any measurable health benefit.

Raised questions

Like all studies, this one has some limitations. The study participants were healthy and mostly lean, unlike the general population and perhaps the people most interested in using a standing desk to help lose weight. But Creasy said he expects the general findings to hold up in people who are obese. The study also had people stand or sit as still as they could, so it might not capture any significant variations resulting from fidgeting or shifting around in either scenario.

The study also doesn’t address a fundamental question in the sit vs. stand debate: are the negative health effects linked to prolonged sitting caused by the sitting itself or a lack of activity? Like prolonged sitting, a lack of exercise is also linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And earlier research has found that those who do sit for long periods but are also activedon’t face the same health risks. But other research has suggested that sitting alone can be bad, causing discomfort and poor circulation. Still, standing for long periods of time may also cause problems such as enlarged veins.

On this bigger question, “the jury is still out,” Creasy said. Researchers are looking into whether exercise can override our sedentary lifestyles, plus whether standing desks benefit productivity, comfort, and other health issues.

A few small studies have come out showing that standing desks can boost productivity, but a few others have shown that they don’t. Others are inconclusive. For instance, in a recent study on the productivity of call center workers who were assigned either standing or sitting desks, researchers found that the standers were as much as 53 percent more productive than sitters. But the study lacked baseline data of how productive each group was to start with, so the results are not conclusive. An interesting find, however, was that in surveys, the standing workers did report less back pain and discomfort than their seated counterparts.

As researchers work out which desk setup might be best, Creasy points out that moving is always a good idea. He suggests getting creative with figuring out ways to add intermittent bouts of walking into your daily routine, such as moving the printer farther down the hall or having walking meetings. He points out that benefits can be seen with just casual, slow walking. This isn’t exercise, he emphasizes.