6 Ways to Boost your Immunity Naturally this Flu Season

Cold and flu season is upon us once again! Health experts, doctors, and even our grocery stores are urging us to get our annual flu shot. I have mixed emotions about the flu shot – it’s not that I think there is something inherently wrong with it. And there’s definitely a certain population that should get it, among them senior citizens, those in the health care industry, and those with compromised immune systems.

It does seem to me, though, that our bodies are properly equipped with the tools and armor to fight these bugs, if we are healthy and have functioning immune systems. So I’m a bit reticent every year about getting one. I want my strong military defense team, led by those brave little soldiers, my white blood cells, to mount a fight instead. I’ve only actually gotten the shot once, back in the late 90’s.

I once interviewed an organic gardener about natural gardening; I asked her how to protect your garden from weeds and pesky critters. She told me that if your dirt and host environment is healthy and strong, weeds won’t be able to grow. Instead of taking care of the problem, she advocated instead preventative care by strengthening and optimizing the dirt.

I guess that’s how I feel about the cold and flu season – while we may get sick, hopefully, if we have a strong and healthy body, we can fight it off. And then develop our own natural immunities. But that’s a decision for each person to make for themselves and their family. Certainly, with my asthma, I may be more inclined to get a shot as I get older.

We can all benefit, though, from boosting our immunities naturally and creating our own strong defenses, even if we get a flu shot. Here’s six great ways:

  1. Exercise regularly. Peope who exercise regularly are less likely to get a cold. Exercise helps build your immune system as well as your gorgeous muscles!
  2. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit to promote a healthy and strong body. They are loaded with antioxidants to help fight those bad germs (and cancer, as well!). Vegetables rich in beta-carotene help to promote healthy skin and mucous lining, which is our first line of defense. Carrots, apricots, spinach, and broccoli are all rich in beta-carotene. Vitamin B-6 has also been shown to boost immunities, according to several studies. Avocados, bell peppers, and leafy greens are all rich in Vitamin B-6.
  3. Wash your hands. All the time. Germs and bacteria lurk everywhere. In a recent study, gas pump handles were found to have the highest concentration of filth and germs. ATM buttons, crosswalk buttons, mailboxes – all top breeding grounds. Think of other items that are touched often – Starbucks door handles, your phone at work, light switches, computer keyboards, and more. Sanitize these items in your home and office, and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. It’s one of the most effective defenses.
  4. Chicken soup. Your grandma’s chicken soup did help to alleviate your cold symptoms – it promotes healthy mucous development and is an anti-inflammatory.
  5. Visit a steam room regularly. It helps to keep your nasal and respiratory passages moist – dry nasal passages make you more susceptible to colds. The steam, especially if tinged with eucalyptus, can keep those passages moist and functioning.
  6. Natural supplements to fight colds. While the scientific evidence is inconclusive, many swear by their zinc and echinacea. At the first sign of a cold or flu, I take NOW Elderberry and Zinc lozenges, available at Fruitful Yield. This immune system supporter contains elderberry extract, zinc, vitamin C, echinacea, propolis, and slippery elm. Elderberry has been suggested to reduce flu symptoms in several studies. I have taken these faithfully for over ten years; at the first sign of a cold, I start taking them on a strict regimen. My cold generally goes away or never starts; perhaps it’s all psychosomatic, but who cares if it works, right?

5 Ways to Work Out Consistently

Exercise is an essential part of any weight loss regimen. But the best workout routine in the world won’t work if you don’t do it consistently. Sure, you made it to the club four times this week, but it won’t matter much if you only work out once next week. Each of us, though, are busy with work, families, and fun. So how come some people manage to work out consistently? Consider these five strategies to help you work out consistently:

  1. Set a total goal for your workout minutes weekly and make sure to hit that goal 95% of the time. How many workout sessions do you want to ideally achieve each week? How long will your sessions last? It’s important to have a definite exercise goal to focus your efforts on. Now multiply the two together to obtain your Total Goal Workout Minutes per week. Focus on hitting those goal minutes no matter what comes up. For example, if you plan on doing five 30 minute sessions weekly but a late meeting prevents you from getting to the club, make sure to increase your session durations the rest of the week so you still add up to 150 minutes.
  2. Keep a written exercise log. It’s human nature to overestimate our efforts. By keeping track of the amount of time you spend working out each day, as well as the activities involved, you’ll find you are much more aware of your patterns. Tracking also ensures that you’ll hit your target minutes that you set above.
  3. Plan on exercising daily, banking your minutes as if it was an “exercise savings acount”. If you start your week planning on working out daily, conflicts will likely occur during the week. Since you’ve already starting banking your minutes toward your weekly goal, you can afford the day off and still hit your goals.
  4. Try two exercise sessions per day. If it’s increasingly difficult to break away for 45 minutes to exercise, you may want to break it up into two smaller sessions. It may be easier for you to work out for 20 minutes in the morning before work and an additional 20 minutes right after dinner. And you can always work out longer if you are rocking it!
  5. Have alternative plans scripted and ready to go. If your regular workouts consist of running outside, what is your go-to plan if the weather is too nasty? You may be a regular at your weekly kickboxing class, but what happens if you have to miss it because of a family conflict? Have alternative strategies planned out for when your first alternative doesn’t work. For example, If it rains tomorrow and I can’t run, I will do my P90X workout DVD. If I am travelling on a business trip, I will get up extra early to work out in the hotel gym before client meetings and dinner.

What strategies do you use to stay consistent in your exercise routine?

Is it Nature or Nurture? Helping your children to be healthy eaters.

As a child growing up in the 1960’s, I don’t recall that our family ate particularly healthy meals. The health and wellness revolution wasn’t in vogue yet. But the feminist movement was; as women began shedding their aprons for business clothes, finding ways to make lives easier became imperative. American housewives rejoiced as the dawn of convenience and frozen foods helped unleash their shackles from the kitchen stove.

Which seems to sum up a lot of my meals as a child. I’m not saying they were bad, it’s just how it was. While we rarely ate fast food or takeout, most of our dinners consisted of a traditional meat, frozen vegetables, and potatoes. Fish only appeared on Lenten Fridays, and it was usually courtesy of Mrs. Paul (fish sticks, anyone?).

Side dishes were courtesy of the Green Giant. I don’t think I really had ever seen many vegetables in their fresh, natural form until I was on my own. Who knew that peas came in a pod?

My parents were both thin as well; probably a combination of good genes and the fact that they were both heavy smokers during that era. Since they both had sweet toothes, there was always something sugary in our house. Store-bough Danishes were for breakfast, Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies packed with lunches, and ice cream bars for dessert.

So you’d think I would have grown up to be a chubby adult with bad eating habits. Actually, for about 3 years in my early teens, this was true. Once I hit puberty at age 13, my waistline and thighs expanded as my self esteem shrunk. This prompted me to begin my exploration and somewhat obsession with all things fitness and health.

This long and sometimes pothole-ridden road has led me to who I am today – someone who values a healthy lifestyle more than almost anything, except love, of course. Honestly, I can’t go more than a day without working out – I feel crabby and out of sorts if I don’t. And I love to cook and eat healthy. I’ll choose the long way to cook something from scratch (now known as the trendy “slow food movement”). And I eschew cheap, mass produced foods.

So was it nature or nurture that got me to this point? How much actual influence do parents have over how their childrens’ eating habits turn out? Was I predisposed to eat healthier, despite my upbringing? Why is it that some people crave sweets, while some can resist a dessert even if it’s under their nose?

Raising my own kids, I struggled with that fine line between teaching them to be healthy eaters and turning them into obsessed individuals with a bad relationship with food. Should I let them eat candy? Do I limit it to Halloween or allow them to have treats regularly? Would the fact that I cooked healthy meals like chicken breasts and fresh veggies rather than comfort foods like macaroni and cheese scar them for life?

In the end, I chose moderation over obsession. I cooked the occasional meatloaf and mashed potatoes for the rest of the family, but made healthier roasted fish for myself. We treated them to special visits to the ice cream shop, but did not keep a lot of sweet treats in the house. And remembering the magical fun of Halloween, I did not make a big deal about candy.

There were many times during their teen years that I wondered if I had made the right decision. My fish dinnerss were resoundingly snubbed by all. They would occasionally grumble that we never had good food in the house, like potato chips and pop. Once they were driving, wrappers from MickeyD’s and Portillos were always found in the recycling bin. I thought I’d lost them to the dark side.

In the end, example and moderation worked best for our family. Rather than endlessly lecture them on healthy eating and banish all bad things from their lives, we tried to lead by moderation. We emphasized healthy meals, but let them have the occasional comfort food. My husband and I exercised regularly, did active, fun things with them, and got them into sports.

Now they are adults. And I think they are on their own healthy journeys. My son regularly cooks dinner for us, making healthy and delicious meals like fish tacos, salads, and seafood stews. During a trip to the local grocery store, I was impressed when he bought all organic veggies for the dinner he was making. My stepdaughter is into the organic thing as well, and works out regularly.

So I guess nurture plays a huge role in how we conduct our life. Maybe the influence of my father making fresh salads daily for our dinner when I was in high school was more important than I originally thought. And my grandma preparing everything from scratch – she was a pioneer in today’s local slow food movement.

So let your kids have an occasional treat. Live your life in a healthy way most of the time – you’ll be surprised at how they’ll pick up your habits later.

Welcome to FitLife funlife!

Welcome to my blog! You’ll find a wealth of useful tips, strategies, and information to help you live a fit and healthy life to its fullest. Healthy living, contrary to popular belief, is a lot of fun. And it feels great – imagine waking up every day, full of energy and enthusiasm, ready to conquer the world!

That’s what this site is about – enjoying the many bounties that life offers, using exercise and good, nutritious food to keep you healthy and dynamic. I’m a personal trainer and wellness coach with over twenty years of experience. While gyms are great for getting fit, I’m a proponent of using the world as your gym. So you’ll find information on outdoor activities and workouts to keep your exercise fresh. From exercise tips to actual workouts, we’ll make sure you are well equipped with the best in fitness advice, all based on scientific principles. No celebrity workouts here.

I also believe in the power of food to prevent illness. Food is energy and fuel, and we should treat our bodies like the amazing, well built machines that they are. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy eating! You’ll find a plethora of healthy recipes that are easy to prepare. Most are low in calories, but I also believe in having treats occasionally – it’s all about planning those treats. Since knowledge is power, we’ll help you identify when a food is healthy or a diet disaster.

And from a social activism standpoint, I believe in local, sustainable foods. Our current food system is broken and unhealthy. Since I’m a journalist as well, I will present both sides of the story and let you make you own judgments. As with anything in life, there’s both a cost and a benefit. I want you to have the information so you can weigh the risks and benefits and decide on your own.

Whether you’re 25 or 55, you’ll find a wealth of great ideas and information on this blog, all presented in user friendly form. And I encourage you to interact in the community – provide feedback, ask questions, and let me know your own tips and strategies.

As in the attached video, this is living – and we are never too old to grab all that life has to offer us. Enjoy!

5 Healthy Things to do this week

Make your week a healthier one by incorporating these five things into your life. Change your life for the better a little bit at a time!

Soup is good food – Broth-based soups are low in calories and will satisfy you. Make a homemade soup, using little or no meat and lots of fresh, healthy veggies. Try our Spicy Pumpkin Gumbo below!

Take a bike ride and enjoy the beautiful palette of autumn leaves.

Add some activity in during your workday. Get up every hour or so and do some lunges and pushups. Great way to get extra strength training in!

Go for a walk at lunchtime. The fresh air will energize you and you’ll feel much more alive in the afternoon.

Have a handful of sunflower seeds or a banana and peanut butter around 2pm. That will help you through the 3 o’clock doldrums, when most people are tempted to have a candy bar or some other sugary or starch carbohydrate.

What healthy thing will you do this week?