Archive | January, 2014

Nodding Off to Healthyland

27 Jan

sleepSleep. Oh that wonderful ritual that slows aging and grants energy. That combines pajamas, fluffy sheets and snuggly warmth for 8 hours of silent delight… or 7. Or maybe 6—Sherlock doesn’t start until late. Make that two 3-hour shifts with a 30-minute baby feeding in between. Oh, I forgot! I have that big meeting tomorrow at 8am and I need to prepare after I help the kids with homework and get them to bed.

Sound familiar? I know I’m a repeat offender. Far too often we trade in our sleep to cram more things into our day, and it is—not maybe, not probably, not could—it is affecting our health. Sleeping less than 7-9 hours per night increases our risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and reduces memory and our ability to heal and build muscle. How can that be? Sleep is our body’s time to release hormones for physical and psychological repair and prepare us for the next day’s activities. The longer we stay up, the more cortisol our body releases which affects other hormones like increasing insulin and ghrelin (tells us we are hungry) while decreasing DHEA (anti-aging hormone), GABA and serotonin (our feel good neurotransmitters), growth hormone, melatonin and leptin (tells us we are full).

Here are 10 easy steps to create a stellar environment for increased energy, weight loss, stress reduction and improved cognition.

  1. Power down an hour before bedtime. Light keeps cortisol surging and cortisol keeps you wired and your waistband expanding. Dim lights and DVR TV shows to watch earlier the following day. Trade the nightshow line-up for a good book, conversation or relaxing bath.
  2. Stick to one cup of coffee in the a.m. Caffeine keeps us up, so stick to herbal teas and protein-dense foods rather than an afternoon caffeinated soda or coffee pick-me-up.
  3. Keep dinner light. It’s hard to sleep when our body is too busy digesting. Stick to a light dinner of lean protein, healthy fats and veggies.
  4. Give furry friends their space. Pets are cute like kids, but they also wiggle and can wet the bed like kids sometimes do too. Let them sleep next to you on the floor for uninterrupted (and dry) slumber.
  5. Play daily. The more active you are with exercise throughout the day, the better you will sleep.
  6. Be consistent. Waking up at 5am during the week and then sleeping in until 9am and staying up until 1am on the weekends wrecks havoc on your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Try to keep your wake and sleep times consistent.
  7. Find your neutral quiet. Whether it is a fan, a babbling brook or complete silence, find the white noise that helps you rest.
  8. Stay liquid-free an hour before slumber to avoid using the bathroom.
  9. Take a bubble bath. Create a nighttime ritual that helps you relax, whether it is soaking in the tub, giving/getting a massage from your significant other or spraying lavender oil on your sheets—take care of yourself and make it enjoyable.
  10. Black is the new sleep. Light is not our friend when sleeping. Keep your bedroom as pitch black as possible and as electronic-free as possible.

Orange Ginger Chicken

20 Jan

This Asian delight satisfies taste buds minus the salty, bloated feeling from the rice and soy sauce. Plus, it is packed full of fiber, vitamins and minerals from all of the veggies and it is soy-free, dairy-free, grain-free and low glycemic. Flavor-free? Why of course not, Silly!


IMG_1880Ingredients for Chicken:

2 lbs  chicken breast

1/3 cup coconut aminos

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

zest of one orange

1 orange, juiced (about 1/4 cup)

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tsp fresh ginger (or 1 1/2 tsp ground)

3/4 tsp sea salt

1 tsp red pepper flakes

30 turns black pepper

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup frozen peas

2 red bell peppers, diced

sea salt to taste

broccoli or cabbage slaw

cashew pieces to garnish

2 green onions, chopped, to garnish




Ingredients for Cauli-rice:

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp olive oil

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 green onion, chopped

sea salt to taste


1. Pre-heat oven to 325°. (This can also be cooked in a slow cooker). Place chicken in the dutch oven (or slow cooker).

2. In a separate bowl, mix coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, orange zest, garlic, ginger, sea salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Pour over chicken.

3. Bake for 2 hours (or 4-5 hrs in the slow cooker). About 20 minutes before chicken is finished cooking, place cauliflower florets in food processor and pulse into rice-sized pieces. Place garlic and olive oil in saute pan and saute for 1 minute. Add cauliflower, green onion and 1/4 cup water to pan and steam for 5-7 minutes until cooked. Salt to taste and set aside.

4. When chicken is finished, add bell peppers and peas (or remove from slow cooker and place in large saute pan) and cook until liquid is reduced and peppers are soft.

5. Serve chicken over cauli-rice, slaw and garnish with cashew pieces, chopped green onions and a dash of coconut aminos.


Serves 6


Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Bell





Outdoor Odessey

14 Jan
Smith Falls State Park. Photo courtesy of

Smith Falls State Park. Photo courtesy of

Whether the outdoors is blanketed in snow or not, there is plenty of nature-loving fun and fitness to be had by all. Bundle up and start your trek to the great outdoors…


If you fancy a hike or long for a snowshoe or cross-country ski expedition, then pack your thermos with chili, throw some almonds in your pocket, and get your warm-clothing-layered awesome self outdoors! The beauty of hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing is that you can do it in the comfort of your neighborhood or venture out to a nature center (and the fact that it works every major muscle, increases cardiovascular fitness and burns 400-700 calories per hour is pretty cool too). Most parks have equipment you can rent or you can pick up your own gear at an outdoor sports store. So strap on your shoes (or skis) of choice and try your neighborhood park or any of these beautiful nature centers:


Boyer Chute (Omaha, NE)

Fontenelle Forest (Bellevue, NE)

Hitchcock Nature Center (Honey Creek, IA)

Indian Cave State Park (Brownville, NE)

Mahoney State Park (Ashland, NE)

Neale Woods (Denton, NE)

Pioneers Park (Lincoln, NE)

Ponca State Park (Ponca, NE)

Smith Falls State Park (Valentine, NE)


For more information on state parks, nature centers and outdoor fun, visit the Nebraska Games and Parks website.




The Mini Desk Workout

6 Jan

Got a desk job? Many do and it’s not cool. Being tied to our computers at a desk for 8 hours per day, then coming home to relax on the couch or sit at the kitchen table to help the kids with homework, leads to all sorts of nasty things like weight gain, cardiovascular disease, weak muscles, slow metabolism, blood sugar imbalance and the list goes on. Whether you get to the gym for an hour a day or not, these are easy stretches and exercises you can do at your desk (or nearby) every day during your break. Activity clears the mind, increases productivity, builds confidence, decreases stress and brightens the soul. Go forth and conquer! (And make sure it is cool with your doctor, keep good form and never do anything that hurts–joint pain and muscle fatigue are very different things.)

Exercise Program***

Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday

Perform 1-2 sets during two of your breaks. Make sure to keep the core activated during each stretch and exercise (think belly button to spine).

1. Upper Trapezius Stretch

Grab bottom of chair with right hand and tilt head towards left shoulder like you are pouring water out your ear. Slightly tuck chin and slightly turn head, looking at right knee. Gently pull down on head with left hand (Fig. 1). Hold for 10 seconds and use left hand to lift head to neutral. Switch sides.

2. Seated Figure 4 Hip Stretch

Sit tall on chair. Cross right ankle above left knee. Use hands to gently push down on thigh of right leg (never push down on the knee joint) (Fig. 2). Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides.

3. Push Up

Start in a neutral spine position with your wrists under your shoulders and elbows straight, hands on wall, desk or floor. Inhale, squeeze your shoulder blades to pull yourself towards the ground, elbows pointing back at a 45 degree angle (Fig. 3). Once your arms are level with your torso, exhale and push up to start position. Perform 10-20 reps.

4. Split Squat

Start in a split stance with right leg in front and left leg back, legs hip width apart. Inhale, bend knees to lower your body, leading with the left knee towards the ground (but don’t touch the knee to ground) (Fig. 4). Exhale, squeeze the glutes and push with the right heel to start position. Keep the spine neutral the entire time. Perform 10-20 reps, then switch to the other side. If this is too difficult, perform squats instead.

5. Bent Over Reverse Fly

Bend knees 30° and hinge forward at the hips, keeping neutral spine. Arms are extended and hands hold weights (or water bottles) with palms facing towards your body (Fig. 5). Inhale, squeeze shoulder blades and raise arms parallel to the ground (Fig. 6). Exhale, lower to start. Perform 10-20 reps.

Tuesday/Thursday (keep a pair of athletic shoes at work)

Choose 1 cardio activity below and perform it during two of your breaks. Make sure to start slow by walking for 3 minutes to warm-up the body.

1. Walk, jog or run up stairs (walk down them for recovery) 3-5 times. Take a longer rest if needed.

2. Walk, jog, run, step side-to-side or do jumping jacks in place for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and continue for 3-5 minutes. Take a longer rest if needed.

3. Briskly walk outside around your building for your entire break.

***This program is designed for healthy individuals with no medical concerns. Always speak with your doctor before performing any exercise program. If you are new to exercise or haven’t exercised in a while (but your doctor has given you the A-OK), start with one set and build your endurance and strength from there. Optimal results can only be obtained with a customized exercise and nutrition program.

For an effective and efficient workout at home, try the 30-Minute Workout, or contact me for all of your exercise, nutrition and life coaching needs. 402-819-8970.

Fig. 1 Upper Trapezius Stretch

Fig. 1 Upper Trapezius Stretch

Fig. 2 Seated Figure 4 Hip Stretch

Fig. 2 Seated Figure 4 Hip Stretch

Fig. 3 Push Up

Fig. 3 Push Up

Fig. 4 Split Squat (you can use the chair for balance if you are a new exerciser)

Fig. 4 Split Squat (you can use the chair for balance if you are a new exerciser)

Fig. 5 Start position of Bent Over Reverse Fly

Fig. 5 Start position of Bent Over Reverse Fly

Fig. 6 Mid Position of Bent Over Reverse Fly

Fig. 6 Mid Position of Bent Over Reverse Fly