It’s never too late for a refresher on all that keeps your body fit and healthy. Here is my latest top ten list – and why I think they work!

1. Start and finish the day drinking water. When we wake up, it’s likely we’re slightly dehydrated. Drinking water hydrates, enhances our body’s ability to use fat and flushes toxins from our body. Try to drink water about 15 minutes before every meal or snack – and definitely before bedtime. Drinking before you eat will help with digestion, and we all want to feel comfortable after we eat.  Water and the acidity in our stomach don’t mesh. Too much water (or any liquid while eating) can make you feel a little bloated.

2. Don’t overdose on caffeine. Small amounts of caffeine have shown some benefit in cognitive function, but small amounts of caffeine have also been shown to elevate cortisol and promote weight gain. If you don’t have unnecessary belly fat, it’s probably ok to have a cup of coffee or tea in the morning. But if you have belly fat, consider cutting out caffeine entirely. There’s a strong chance caffeine will continue to add weight throughout the belly area.

3. Consider cutting back on refined carbohydrates, particularly those that contain gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. While only a small percentage of people actually suffer from celiac disease, there are over 140 types of sensitivities related to this group of food.  Wheat, in particular, has been shown to cause inflammation. I can’t stress just how disastrous inflammation is on your body – and it’s not just achy joints. It’s very difficult to lose weight and gain mobility when you’re inflamed – and I’m not just talking about achy joints.

4. Eat some good fat. While every body needs a different amount, we all need fat. Dietary fat helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It also helps keep “food swings” at bay. Hunger a couple hours after eating a meal is too soon. If you feel hungry all the time, you might not be getting enough fat in your diet. Healthy sources of fat include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and butter (for some). Fats like corn, canola and soybean oil should be minimized as they’re likely rancid (literally). Rancid fats release free radicals. Free radicals attack our body much like the way rust damages a car. Food for thought.

5. Cut back on sugar. Like gluten, don’t be surprised if you’re sensitive to sugar, particularly refined sugar. One form of sugar called fructose, can be especially harmful. Found in most sodas, candies, even yogurts and so-called energy bars, fructose is preferentially stored as triglycerides if our body already has enough carbohydrates stored. Since most of us eat candy, soda and dessert foods after our main meal, chances are our body has plenty of carbs to use already. Topping off the tank with fructose tells our body to store the extra sugar as triglycerides. Not good. Yes, fructose is found in fruit. While fruits are tremendously healthy, we don’t need to eat them day in and day out. What’s more, whole fruit sugar isn’t nasty and refined.

6. Get variety in your exercise. A lot of people start working out to lose weight. Other people start working out to get stronger. Sometimes they see results and sometimes they don’t. You’ll never know what works for you until you get a variety in your schedule. Not everyone responds to strength training. Some people do better with yoga and pilates. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what works for your body. We all start somewhere!

7. Get activity most days of the week. If you can workout six days a week, good for you! Keep it going. If you’re having a hard time getting motivated or trying to find time, schedule a few ten-minute intervals in your day dedicated to getting up and walking. Not sure where to start? Consider my plan, The 40-Day Shape Up. It’s inexpensive, combines workouts for all levels and a diet that’s right for your body type (apples, pears, athletes and babyfaces).

8. Do some form of interval training. Believe it or not, a lot of people do not lose weight doing slow and steady cardio. For those that do lose weight while doing constant workouts at a perceived comfortable pace, they’ve probably lost valuable muscle. This is because after a short period of time working out “easy” (15 to 20 minutes), our body’s cortisol (stress hormone) level increases. When this happens, we naturally hang on to fat. Combining intervals into our workouts will likely decrease the amount of time working out and increase our overall fitness and ability to burn fat.

9. Sleep. Sleep is the cornerstone of your health. When you have enough, it helps regulate your hormones, increase lean muscle mass and maintain normal appetite. When you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones are thrown off, fat is stored and your appetite gets thrown out of whack. Aim for 7 to 8 hours a night if possible. It will do your body good!

10. Get out of your head. Sounds strange, I know. But many of us become somewhat obsessed with what we should eat and how we should move. Sometimes that can really backfire, leading to discouragement and frustration. Just think about the basics:

a) eat whole, clean food
b) if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it
c) healthy sounding and healthy are not the same thing
d) some movement is better than nothing
e) water is always good
f) don’t eat to capacity
g) include vegetables in at least two meals a day
h) don’t be afraid to eat eggs, nuts, avocados and other healthy fats
i) indulge smartly
j) sleep, sleep and sleep – your body probably needs it!

Want more tips like this? Follow Traci on Facebook. She’d love to see you there! Interested in working with Traci? She works privately with clients specializes in nutrition coaching and weight loss as well as functional fitness and personal training. All sessions are done via Skype or telephone if outside of Chicago. For more information, contact Traci here.

Looking for a simple way to get into great shape and eat right? Try Traci’s 40-Day Shape Up!

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