Rejuvenate Your Lifestyle!

The REfreshME! Challenge is almost over-5 weeks down, 1 more to go! CONGRATULATIONS on making it to the last and final challenge-you rock! Now that you have been eating a balanced, nutrient rich, anti-inflammatory diet, its time to focus our attention from the gut to your brain. Since the two are very much connected, it is important to address your mental wellbeing. You can eat a wholesome, nutrient rich diet, yet that is not the only thing to address when aiming to lead a healthy life. This week we are going to tackle your sleep, your stress, and your activity level to REJUVENATE YOUR LIFESTYLE! Moving forward I hope you can keep some of the tools your learned in your back pocket to keep you on top of your health. Share your wonderful meal creations/recipes/inspirations with me on Instagram @poppiesandpapayas or on Twitter @PPapayas

Let's Get Moving!

Humans are meant to move; bend, twist, jump, skip, run, walk, stretch, dance, swim, climb, and lift! We were not meant to sit all day long. However, in today’s day and age, we are sitting too much. We sit in our cars, we sit at work, we sit at home watching TV. This is not news to anyone. We sit more than we stand, walk, or move otherwise during the day, and this is killing us! A recent article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that older women who sat for long periods of time increased their chance for untimely death, especially those that sat 11 hours or more. Even more interestingly, the study found that even women who exercised regularly, if they spent most of their daily hours doing sedentary activities, they also had an increased risk. Hmmmm….Therefore, even if you meet exercise recommendations of 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week, and sit the remainder of the day, the benefits of your exercise may not outweigh the risk of sitting all day long!

Exercise, or what I like to call it, enjoyable movement, is vital to your health and wellbeing. Below is a list of some of the main benefits of movement:
  • Helps protect from developing heart disease, by increasing your good HDL cholesterol.
  • Helps prevent and manage type 2 diabetes, but reducing blood sugar levels.
  • Helps strengthen bones, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Relieves stress, anxiety, and depression through the release of endorphins.
  • Helps improve sleep.
  •  Promotes healthy weight.
  • Promotes detoxification through sweating.
  • Improves lung and muscle fitness.
  • Improves overall cognition.

I know it can be hard to get outside and move, especially when it is cold and wet outside. However, making exercise a goal, and setting up an action plan to overcome your own barriers, is the first step to increasing movement into your day. This doesn't mean you have to go to the gym every day, or run 10 miles. Do something you enjoy! 

Some great tips to increase your movement throughout the day (without changing into fitness clothes) include the following:
  • Buy a pedometer to track your daily steps! It's a great motivator.
  • Stand up and walk or stretch every hour at the office.
  • When you call family or friends go on a walk instead of sitting at home.
  • Listen to music to encourage movement.
  • Find a buddy to walk with during your lunch break.
  • Split your lunch break in half: move the first half, and eat the second half.
  • Consider getting a standing work station.
  • Make yourself brain activity sticks to do every 30-60 minutes at work.
  • Get off the bus a stop or two early to increase your walk home.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk to the park to eat your lunch on a nice sunny day.
  • Instead of driving to the grocery store or restaurant, walk/ride your bike/take the bus.

quinoa, lime, tomato, spinach, beans, fiber, protein, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, easy

Time to go to BED!

Skimping on sleep doesn't do you or your health any good. We need sleep to give our bodies time to rest, digest, and repair. More and more research has been showing that loosing snooze time can increase inflammation, increase appetite, and decrease cognitive function. Most research studies indicate that 6 hours or less is a risk factor to health problems including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Experts generally recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per day, and noted that even skimping on 20 minutes of sleep, resulted in impaired performance and memory. However, on the opposite spectrum, sleeping too much is also a contributing risk factor.

So how can you change up your evening routine to support quality sleep?

1. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime.

Eating right before bedtime takes the focus away from resting and repairing to digesting your meal. It may even cause heart burn or discomfort. Eating a lighter dinner 3-4 hours prior to bedtime will enhance overall sleep. If your still hungry prior to bedtime, eat a small balance snack like 1/2 an apple and a few almonds.

2. Turn off the TV or computer 1 hour before bedtime to prepare the body for sleep.

Watching movies prior to bed, or working late hours on the computer stimulates the brain, and impairs the natural production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone. Therefore, switching to reading, taking a bath, or stretching, can be a great way to prepare the body for sleep.  This is guided meditation can be a great tool to help ease you into sleep.

3. Go to bed at 10pm and rise at 6am to follow the natural circadian rhythm.

The natural circadian rhythm starts with a gradual rise of the stress hormone cortisol, which spikes in the early morning, and without an alarm would wake you up. As the day progresses cortisol levels should naturally decrease, and your sleep hormone melatonin should naturally increase, peaking around midnight. By going to bed near 10pm and waking near 6am, you are naturally following your hormonal rhythm.

4. Choose your beverages wisely.

Drinking caffeinated beverages in the second half of the day may impair your sleep at night. Caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours, meaning that it takes your liver 10-12 hours to clear all the caffeine from your system. Therefore, aim to keep your coffee before noon, and choose herbal teas such as chamomile to aid in relaxation in the evening. Also, drinking too much alcohol at night, can affect the quality of your sleep by disrupting your circadian rhythm, and effecting your sleep cycles. Although alcohol is a relaxant, it does not promote optimal sleep.

Stop running from the BEAR!

Although stress can be a positive energy source, motivating you to perform well, extended periods of chronic stress can be quite harmful to overall health. Stress is a natural hormonal response that our bodies use to help protect ourselves against predators. First cortisol is released, stimulating the increase in our heart rate, and consequentially pumping more blood to our legs, arms, and brains. This is controlled by our "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system. Stress, therefore, naturally channels the blood away from our GI tract which is governed under the “rest and digest” parasympathic nervous system, to our extremeties. This makes sense, because if a bear is attacking you in the woods, you want heightened cognitive function, and fueled muscles to run and fight.

However, in today’s world, it is very rare that one must run from a bear. Rather it is the continuous chronic stress that is impacting our health. For instance, tests, presentations, traffic, fights with your spouse, death of loved ones, financial issues, deadlines, etc all contribute to this natural “fight or flight” response. If we are constantly stressed our bodies never have the chance to return to the important “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system.

Chronic stress has shown to increase inflammation, suppress the immune system, decrease the absorption of nutrients, GI problems, reduced quality of sleep, and a whole host of other issues. Therefore, managing stress is vital to maintain optimal health!

Tips to help manage your stress:

1. Take the time to breathe and relax.

Deep breathing can help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and help manage stress. Here is a good source for free guided breathing meditation.

2. Get outside, breathe the fresh air, and move.

Adding enjoyable movement to your day naturally helps reduce stress hormones. However, excessive exercise can have the opposite effect, increasing bodily stress. Therefore, finding a good medium of enjoyable movement is best to help alleviate stress and boost energy.

3. Spend time with friends and family that nourish your soul.

Some people seem to drain your energy, while others give you energy. Spending time with friends and family that support, love, and care for you can help boost your emotional and mental health.

4. Have a creative outlet.

Creating a space to allow for creativity can increase overall wellbeing. Whether you love to draw, sing, dance, sew, write, photograph, craft, etc. doing these creative activities can help reduce stress.

5. Take an Epsom salt bath once a week.

Epsom salt is rich in magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a mineral that is in over 300 enzymatic reactions within our body, including those responsible for relaxation. Excessive stress has been shown to drain magnesium levels. By taking an Epsom salt bath once a week, you can increase your magnesium, aiding in enhanced relaxation and feelings of wellbeing. 

Epsom Bath Recipe: Add 2 cups of epsom salt to your bath. Add essential oils such as lavender, rose, or frankincense for added stress relief.

Note: You can buy epsom salt at almost any grocery store or drug store.

6. Eat magnesium rich foods!

Most Americans are deficient in magnesium. In fact, adults average only about 66% of their daily magnesium (daily recommended amount for adults is 400mg). Therefore, eating foods rich in magnesium can aid in stress reduction and relaxation. Foods especially rich in magnesium are pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, soybeans, sesame seeds, quinoa, black beans, cashews, sunflower seeds, and navy beans.

Alright so here is your 6th Challenge!!!
Now that you have learned why you should move, sleep, and relax more, here is your next challenge! Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.

Weekly Recipe Inspiration:

Zesty Cilantro Lime Quinoa Salad

With lots of zesty lime juice and zest as well as fresh cilantro, this salad is sure to brighten your day. Also, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, black beans, and spinach are all great sources of magnesium! Per serving this salad has 119mg (30% of your daily magnesium). 

Serves 6 

For the Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 large lime
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (or more if you like it spicy)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the Salad:
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup roasted & salted pumpkin seeds (I used Eden Organic Spicy Pumpkin Seeds)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
2 cups raw baby spinach


Add all the dressing ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Then add the chopped onion, stir, and allow to marinate. This softens the onion and makes it less spicy.

Meanwhile chop and prepare the rest of the salad ingredients. As you finish prepping the salad ingredients, toss them on top of the dressing. Finally when all salad ingredients are in the bowl, mix everything together. The longer the salad sits, the more flavor it has.

**If you need to make the quinoa add 1 cup quinoa into a medium sauce pan. Add 1 3/4 cup fresh water, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Fluff and allow to cool.    

Optional: Garnish salad with avocado or crumbled queso fresco.

Recipe Links:

My Tips For Lifelong Health Maintenance:
  • 80:20 Rule: Try to follow the REfreshME nutrition guidelines 80% of the time. The other 20% is left for those crazy busy days, celebrations, and just LIFE in general. 
  • Stay active.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Make sleep a priority.
  • Take the time to relax...EVERY DAY!

1. ADAA. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety. Accessed February 7, 2015.
2. Rebecca S, Buchner DM, Liu J, et al. Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in Older Women. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2014;46:122-135.
3. Markwald RR, Melanson EL, Smith MR, et al. Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. PNAS. 2013;110(14):5695-5700.
4. Roehrs T, Roth T. Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use. NIH. Accessed February 7, 2015.
5. Epsom Salt Council. About Epsom Salt. Accessed February 7, 2015.
6. Seelig MS. Consequences of magnesium deficiency on the enhancement of stress reactions; preventive and therapeutic implications (a review). J Am Coll Nutr. 1994 Oct;13(5):429-46.
7. Worlds Healthiest Foods. Magnesium. Accessed February 7, 2015.

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