health

Let's not fret about stress

Hello, everyone!

Since we are all busy bees in our busy lives and some of us were lucky enough to have a relaxing vacations and are now getting ready to “come back to reality”, I wanted to talk about stress in order to remind ourselves how stress can affect us, how to deal with stress, and how to keep stress away as much as possible–like you did while on vacation.

Some of us (if not most of us) usually deal with various sources of ‘pollution’ in our daily lives: our commute, job, relationship, family, financial situation, etc. We all have ‘things’ in our lives that cause more stress than any resemblance of joy. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why is it that we’ve seemed to had forgotten to “stop and smell the roses”?

Thanks to (or unfortunate to) the way we are connected and available to anyone through our phones and/or computers, it is actually getting harder for some of us–myself included–to find a moment in our day to have some real down time and be able to decompress from whatever it is that tormented our day; as brief as it might have been. I sometimes find my off-time to be overran by working hours–and I know of other people who experience this same situation on a daily basis–as if the days were getting shorter and shorter leaving us with not enough time to go over our daily “To-Do” list or finish the pending work that has been piling up from previous days, even weeks.

I’ve also noticed that,  due to fear of losing a job/gig or losing a client,  we have seemed to have forgotten that saying “no” to people is OK sometimes. We can’t always be available to everyone all the same time!

Because of these and many other situations, it is no surprise that “stress” has become a household name and, unfortunately, part of everyday life for many of us today.

Yes, stress is vital for our survival. It is essentially a response, a reflex, to any situation identified as a threat to our existence. Have you ever heard of the phrase “fight or flight”? When under a threat, our ancestors had to make a split decision to either run for safety or fight their way out of danger. Currently, how we perceive and manage stress, however, varies in each individual. What one person might consider and perceive as an extremely stressful situation, another might not even notice or have any significant reaction to it. For some, stressful situations–such as working under pressure–provide fuel in their profession and may even improve their performance. For others, unfortunately this is not the case.

Each person has a different capacity to handle the total stress load, and each person’s capacity varies over time and events. I’m going to get a little ‘technical’ here because I want you to get a little glimpse of what goes on in our body when it deals with stress.

Every organ and system in the body is affected by the total stress load. Changes occur in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and sex drive. We also suffer from stress at the biochemical and cellular levels–even body shape may transform in some way. Yeap, being stressed all the time is not good if you are trying to lose those extra pounds. Too much stress, (physical, emotional, environmental, psychological or a combination of these) can exhaust the adrenal glands (the glands located on top of the kidneys which regulate that “fight or flight” response) which can cause a decrease in the production of adrenal hormones, especially cortisol, which helps our body how to deal with our blood sugar levels: glucose in our system.

I’m not trying to throw big words at you but, pretty much, stress can trigger your body to go into fatigue to a point where your body either is always ‘screaming’ because it thinks all things are out of wake, or actually ‘numbing’ the response mechanisms in our body due to constant strain of our system.

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That being said, stress can push us to exceed our personal limits; it can interfere with our workout goals and our health by weakening our immune system; so if anything, we need to practice some self love and give ourselves some daily time to de-stress. Relaxing actually helps your body (and mind) to get the most out of any hard work it follows. Everyone is different and finds relaxation in different places but a few popular ways to get rid of stress are:

  1. Take a few minutes to really turn your mind off and breath. Really take the time to notice how you are breathing and try to go to a happy place for as short as 5 minutes. You’ll notice that something this simple can make a big difference on the rest of your day.

  2. Mindfulness meditation. If you are not in the mood to meditate, try some deep breathing for at least 15 minutes. You could start by doing it twice a week, and you might find yourself doing if more often than that.

  3. Take a walk outside. By yourself or with a loved one, your dog or a friend. No phone, no emails. Smell the flowers, get some vitamin D on your arms and just be.

  4. Take a bath with some Epsom salts a couple of times a week.

  5. Stretch

  6. Listen to some music. Dance. Let go!

  7. Read a book

  8. Get your nails done, get a massage, whatever activity relaxes and calms your body and mind, set a goal to do it once a week, at least.

  9. I know some of us enjoy a good wine after a long day but try why not try an elixir with adaptogens instead. (Adaptogenic herbs support our whole neuroendocrine system, especially adrenal function, and can help to counteract and regulate the adverse effects of stress) You could enjoy the hot chocolate recipe I shared a while ago which contains maca; since it’s summer and hot AF, skip the heating of your nut milk and enjoy it cold. To amp up the adaptogens in it even more, try adding ¼ tsp ashwagandha to it.

If you think that you don’t have the time for any of these, then find the time. Don’t check instagram for the fourth time today. Let your email inbox collect your emails; they are not going to go anywhere. If you have kids, leave the kids with their Dad, granny, or aunt, and self indulge a little. Stress can make your life miserable. This is your health, and this is your life! Make yourself a priority.


Every couple of weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

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HEALTH HACK | CHICKEN FIX

Chicken is a great, lean source of protein and can be an excellent healthy hallmark in a nutritious diet, but can be boring when you are merely eating plain chicken breasts every other day. Appease your taste buds and healthy conscious by sprucing up the dull chicken dinner. Classic chicken meals undergo a makeover in these 5 simple, delicious recipes--try one of these for your next meal! : 

1.  Lemon Chicken Breasts.  See recipe  here .

1. Lemon Chicken Breasts. See recipe here.

2.  Baked Orange Chicken and Brown Rice.  See recipe  here .

2. Baked Orange Chicken and Brown Rice. See recipe here.

3.  Baja Chicken Bowl.  See recipe  here .

3. Baja Chicken Bowl. See recipe here.

4.  Skinny Cowgirl Chicken Salad . See recipe  here .

4. Skinny Cowgirl Chicken Salad. See recipe here.

5.  Slow-Cooker Balsamic Chicken . See recipe  here .

5. Slow-Cooker Balsamic Chicken. See recipe here.

HEALTH HACK | SUMMER BBQ

With summer officially a couple days away, its time to break out the seasonal staple--the grill. Cooking outdoors can be an easy, fun way to enjoy summertime--whether it be for a weeknight dinner or a Sunday Funday BBQ party with friends. Get inspired to fire up the grill and cook outdoors with these festive and healthy recipes:

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2.  Shrimp burgers.   See recipe here.

2. Shrimp burgers. See recipe here.

3.  Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce.   See recipe here.

3. Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce. See recipe here.

4.  Tangy Coleslaw . See recipe here.

4. Tangy Coleslaw. See recipe here.

5.  Grilled Watermelon with Balsamic Dressing .  See recipe here . 

5. Grilled Watermelon with Balsamic Dressing. See recipe here

HEALTH HACKS | MEAL PREP TIPS

Meal prepping is one of the best ways to ensure you are eating a healthy, nutritious diet even when you have a demanding schedule. Preparation is the ultimate key to weight loss and fitness--making your food in advance so that you have an easy meal later can save you from giving into guilt-ridden bad takeout. Stocking your fridge with healthy options means less impulsive calories throughout the week and time saved from cooking many separate meals every day! See 5 tips for meal prepping here:

1.  Schedule . Plan one day of the week when you will do your cooking (Sunday tends to work best for most people).

1. Schedule. Plan one day of the week when you will do your cooking (Sunday tends to work best for most people).

2.  Freezer Friendly.  Incorporate food that is better suited to freezing and reheating.

2. Freezer Friendly. Incorporate food that is better suited to freezing and reheating.

3.  Overlap . Use recipes with ingredients that overlap to maximum efficiency.

3. Overlap. Use recipes with ingredients that overlap to maximum efficiency.

4.  1+1+1 . Keep in mind the rule of 3:  one protein, one starchy carb, and one produce per meal!

4. 1+1+1. Keep in mind the rule of 3:  one protein, one starchy carb, and one produce per meal!

5.  Sauce Boss . With different sauces and a little creativity, you can transform the same food into various tasty meals.

5. Sauce Boss. With different sauces and a little creativity, you can transform the same food into various tasty meals.

HEALTH HACKS | Snack Attack Pt. 2

Let's admit, we all need more guilt-free snacks in our lives. When the 3pm hunger hits, the defensive line should be healthy, lean, satisfying eats instead of oily, high-carb, overly sweetened traps. Fruit is always a good option, but sometimes you are in the mood for something other than berries, bananas or apples. Try these 5 healthy and delicious snacks that you can easily make at home to stave off your next snack attack:

1.  Sweet Potato Hummus .  See recipe here .

1. Sweet Potato Hummus. See recipe here.

2.  Fat-Free Potato Chips .  See recipe here .

2. Fat-Free Potato Chips. See recipe here.

3.  Citrus-marinated Olives .  See recipe here .

3. Citrus-marinated Olives. See recipe here.

4.  Roasted Chickpeas .  See recipe here .

4. Roasted Chickpeas. See recipe here.

5.  Soy and Sesame Kale Chips .  See recipe here .

5. Soy and Sesame Kale Chips. See recipe here.

HEALTH HACKS | Lifestyle Hacks

A healthier, happier lifestyle is not usually effected by one swift, monumental transformation--in most cases, it is the small, incremental shifts that lead to a lasting change. Take it one day at a time and strategically tweak various parts of your routine. A handful of clever fitness tricks can really bring about a big, positive change. Don't believe it? Try these 5 lifestyle hacks and see for yourself:

1.   Buy a nice water bottle to accompany you throughout the day.  This nifty trick will aid you in reaching that elusive recommended daily water intake...in style.

1.  Buy a nice water bottle to accompany you throughout the day. This nifty trick will aid you in reaching that elusive recommended daily water intake...in style.

2.  Sit/stand up straight.  Not only is good posture better for your neck and back, but it can boost your mood. 

2. Sit/stand up straight. Not only is good posture better for your neck and back, but it can boost your mood. 

3.  Eat mindfully.  Instead of scarfing down your food (we all do it), take a moment to inhale, exhale and chew thoroughly before swallowing. This simple hack can deter you from eating more food than you need and improve your digestion. 

3. Eat mindfully. Instead of scarfing down your food (we all do it), take a moment to inhale, exhale and chew thoroughly before swallowing. This simple hack can deter you from eating more food than you need and improve your digestion. 

4.  Turn off your electronics.  Shut down your laptop, TV and phone at night. These devices emit light that disrupts sleep, so power them down for a better and more revitalizing snooze. 

4. Turn off your electronics. Shut down your laptop, TV and phone at night. These devices emit light that disrupts sleep, so power them down for a better and more revitalizing snooze. 

5.  Smell an orange.  Try eating/smelling an orange every morning for breakfast or dabbing orange oil on your wrists. Studies have found that the scent of an orange can boost mood, decrease stress and make you feel more alert!

5. Smell an orange. Try eating/smelling an orange every morning for breakfast or dabbing orange oil on your wrists. Studies have found that the scent of an orange can boost mood, decrease stress and make you feel more alert!

HEALTH HACKS | Late Night Munchies

Sometimes when you decide it is time to go to sleep, your stomach decides it is time to...eat. "Late night munchies" is definitely a condition that has plagued everyone at odd hours of the night--the trick to dealing with this is NOT reaching for what your mind is craving (chocolate, candy, chips). Instead, go for something relatively light, since your metabolic rate slows down at night! It is important that you go to bed not hungry, but equally important that you wake up feeling not guilty about your midnight snacking. Here are 5 nutritionist-approved late night snacks to get you started:

1. High Fiber Cereal and Milk

1. High Fiber Cereal and Milk

2. Mixed Nuts

2. Mixed Nuts

3. Cottage Cheese

3. Cottage Cheese

4. Banana and Peanut Butter

4. Banana and Peanut Butter

5. String Cheese

5. String Cheese

HEALTH HACKS | Snack Attack

A key strategy to healthy eating is healthy snacking. For many, the word "snacking" probably mentally triggers unpleasant self-images of inhaling chips, devouring cookies, etc. Actually, snacking can facilitate an extremely healthy lifestyle if done correctly and in moderation! Your body needs nutrition throughout the day--during the lulls between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, snacking offers a savvy solution to a peckish stomach. So, instead of grabbing a cookie, you should commit to a healthy (and tasty) snack that will satisfy you until your next meal and appease your conscience. See examples of some healthy snack options below (all under 200 calories!): 

1. Low-fat Greek yogurt topped with granola and nuts

1. Low-fat Greek yogurt topped with granola and nuts

2. Apple slices dipped in almond butter

2. Apple slices dipped in almond butter

3. Edamame

3. Edamame

4.  Small bowl of plain oatmeal topped with fresh berries

4. Small bowl of plain oatmeal topped with fresh berries

5. Frozen grapes

5. Frozen grapes

FITNESS HACKS | Is your resolution to be healthier in 2016?

With the start of each new year, the feeling of a fresh start is created.  Using the lessons learned in the ended year, we make decisions to make changes!

Resolutions to be healthier are at the top of the lists.  We've all seen the packed gyms in January, but slowly the numbers decline and eventually we're back to the same folks we saw in December.  So what happened to everyone?

Health is not a fad; it is not something we try and decide it isn't for us.  I have made this journey personally many times.  I'm consistent for a few weeks, get busy with other things, don't see instant results, and quit.  When I had my third child, I was unhealthy and didn't have the energy to keep up with the demanding life of having three young children.  My metabolism changed, I wasn't taking time to take care of myself, and I didn't know how to fix it.   When I started receiving "Are you ok?" questions, I knew I needed to make a change.

I didn't play sports in school, didn't dance, and would definitely not categorize myself as athletic.  The gyms were intimidating; I could handle the elliptical, but that was about it.  My cousin had opened a Lagree Fitness studio and I went to try it out.  It was difficult.  I was incredibly weak.  And the soreness!!!!!  But it was fun and I got to hang out with family while I worked out so I stuck with it.  Then the results came.  I noticed my strength improving, I slept better, I had more energy, and I had muscles and shape that I had never seen on my body EVER!  I gained confidence and pride in my strength and hard work. 

This was 9 years ago.  I had made a lifestyle change;  health and fitness are a part of me and my family.  My kids are proud of how strong mama is and impromptu flex-offs are a regular thing around our house.  Yes, I skip days and yes, I ate my weight in cookies over the holidays, but that's life!  It would be impossible to maintain any sort of discipline for an extended period of time if you're miserable and constantly feeling guilty about your choices.  Set aside time to take care of yourself as something you do as part of the regular activities of your life, just like washing your car, getting your nails done, and seeing movies in the theater.

That's my story and here's my "before and after."

 

If I can do it, so can you.

 

xo,

Cereza