How to Talk to a Stranger: 7 Can’t-Fail Tips

how to talk to a stranger

lf you’re a natural introvert, you may cringe every time you even think about talking to a stranger. I feel your pain. I’m an ambivert, which means I can go either way depending on the day and situation. But I know the cringe well. 

And sometimes you need to talk to strangers, especially if you find yourself in a job where you’re having to sell something. Why would you choose a job in sales, you ask, if you’re an introvert? Well, there could be a number of reasons.

I, for one, love to write. I’m a writer. I’ve written and self-published a number of books. But, since I’ve self-published, that means I’m responsible for marketing those books myself. Truth be told, in this day and age, even if you did traditionally publish you’d be responsible for most, if not all, of your own book promotion because publishers only throw the big marketing money at promoting the authors they know are sure things. And if you’re a newbie, you’re not a sure thing. By any stretch of the imagination. And a lot of that book marketing ends up being in face to face events and conferences, where you’re meeting a lot of strangers and trying to sell yourself to them in a very short period of time.

So, even if you do choose a career that you’re pretty sure will never necessitate talking face to face with another human being, you may find yourself thrust into a situation (or two) in which you just can’t avoid it. In such situations, especially if you don’t know the person you’re talking to, it can be extremely difficult to figure out what you’re going to say, or how to say it. Even the thought of opening your mouth to say something to somebody with whom you are not familiar can seem daunting, so here are some tips on how to make it a little easier to talk to a stranger.

Smile and say hello

Sometimes it’s as simple as smiling and saying “hello.” To most people, this will send across the message that you are open to communicating with them and learning more about them. Trust me. A smile can go a long way in breaking the ice in any social situation.

Of course, there are those few people who will ignore both your smile and your cheery greeting, and you may feel crushed if this happens. But try not to let it bother you too much. Remember, if they rudely ignore a friendly outreach like that, it’s not about you. They’re just really unfriendly, unhappy people, and you don’t need to waste your time with them.

a smile is a curve 

Imagine they’re already your friend

The more you think about the fact that you’ve never spoken to a particular person before and that you don’t know them at all, the scarier the thought of trying to make conversation with them will be. Instead, try to trick your brain into reframing the relationship.

Look at the person in front of you who you have never met before, and imagine that they are not a stranger. They are your friend. This is just the very first time you’re meeting them. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the whole uncomfortable situation can change into something positive with just this one change in mindset. 

look for something to talk about

I know you, introvert. You don’t like small talk. But you have to remember that, to most people in the world, small talk is absolutely normal. And sometimes necessary. If you want (or need) to talk to people you’ve never met before. You’re going to have to start somewhere, and that usually means engaging in small talk.

I always try to start with a compliment. Note: this has to be a GENUINE compliment. Don’t try to fake it. You’re not good at it (come on, you know you’re not), and people will see right through it.

Something as simple as, “Oh, I love your earrings (or shoes, or whatever)! Where did you get them?,” can go a long way as a conversation starter.

Or this one works well for our family, because my girls almost always run at any stranger with a dog that comes into view: “Do you mind if we pet your dog?”

It doesn’t have to be anything profound or earth-shattering. It really doesn’t. I know you think it does, but I promise you it doesn’t. Start small, and build from there. 

list open-ended questions

Ask open-ended questions

If you want to start a real conversation with a stranger after the door has been opened with small talk, you need to ask open-ended questions instead of closed ones. Don’t let them off easy by asking a question they can just answer “yes” or “no” to. Ask them how long they’ve lived in the area, what their favorite color is, or even what type of book they like to read (or if they read at all).

This will force the other person to either completely ignore you (most people won’t do this because they don’t want to seem rude) or to give a longer answer, which will initiate further conversation.

know when to walk away

If you see the person regularly (like at monthly meetings or weekly kids’ ballgames or something) and you want to speak to them again, don’t scare them off by being too full-on at first. Be genuine, but be genuinely interested in THEM

Don’t spend so much time talking about yourself that their eyes start to glaze over. Ask questions about them, and let them answer and ask questions about you. But keep your answers short. And really listen to what they’re saying when they answer your questions, rather than just thinking about the next thing you want to say. And when you do start to see their eyes glaze over or their face scrunch up in a frown, that’s your cue to walk away and save the rest for another day (or another person, if you’re at a networking event).

Don’t worry so much about what other people think

The main reason we choose not to do many things in life is because we’re worried about what others will think about them. The fear of rejection is one of the greatest fears we experience as humans, which is why that abovementioned interaction with the stranger who doesn’t return your smile and greeting stings so much.  

But if you tell yourself that their reaction doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t like you on a better day (everybody has bad days), and that even if they didn’t that doesn’t change the fact that you’re an awesome person who has a lot to offer, then it will be a lot easier for you to overcome the fear of rejection. Pretty soon, if you keep practicing looking at the interaction in a different way, any rejection you do face will just naturally roll off your shoulders like water off a duck’s back.

water off a duck's back

 

hold onto your confidence

The key to any successful interpersonal interaction is knowing yourself. Have confidence in your skills, abilities, and innate worth as an individual. Take some time before you meet anyone new to really examine the reasons why you want this interaction to be successful. How does it fit into the broader plan for your life? How will it help you reach your ultimate goals and dreams?

If you stay focused on those, your self-confidence will come shining through, and you’ll naturally be more attractive. Pretty soon you will find that’s it not that hard to talk to strangers at all, because they’re the ones who are approaching YOU.


Rethinking Failure As Part of the Process of Success

failure is success in progress

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to fail. Sometimes, I avoid doing things just to protect myself from failure. I don’t think I’m completely alone in that.

It seems that most people tend to think of failure as something shameful or undesirable. Understandably, failing to achieve success can often cause negative feelings, no matter how big or small the goal was. I know the sting all to well. It hurts, even if it’s a small one. And I don’t like it. But I’m fairly certain that avoiding failure by doing nothing is not a healthy way to cope, so I’m trying to learn better ways of dealing with it. 

And one of the best ways to overcome those negative, painful feelings that are associated with failure is to change the way we understand failure. It’s not the definitive end of everything good that we think it is – at least, I tend to think of failure that way. Rather, it is part of the process of success, and we can learn some valuable lessons for us if we take time to examine it constructively.

failure isn't failure unless you don't learn from it

Albert Einstein, arguably one of the most successful people (and certainly one of the smartest) on the planet, once said, “Failure is success in progress.” I like the way he thought. I can’t say I’m always 100% ready to think of it that way, but it’s something I’m working on.

Here are some ways we can redefine failure and learn from it effectively.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Learning from your mistakes is about thinking about what went wrong, but it’s more than that. The first step towards using failure as a tool for success is to stop seeing mistakes as shameful. Don’t do what I normally do and beat yourself up over every little mistake.

Acknowledge that you messed up, and then let go and try to focus on how you can do better the next time. And make sure there IS a next time. Again, this is something I’m still working on improving in myself. Usually, I fail and give up … or I give up before I even start because I want to avoid failing.

failure is part of the human experience

 Mistakes are a natural part of embarking on a new project, but their even more than that. They represent part of the overall human experience. As such, they should be accepted as a necessary step towards achieving your goals.

In her article “Strategies for Learning from Failure,” Amy C. Edmondson classifies mistakes into three categories:

Preventable

These are the mistakes we often think of as bad. They result from lack of focus or attention to the procedures needed to achieve a goal. These are the ones that really sting, especially when they’re responsible for a major failure. The little things don’t always seem so little when they’re the ones we know we could have prevented in the first place. But they’re also the ones that are easier to learn from, because we can see what went wrong and can prepare to fix it the next time. 

Complexity-related

These mistakes happen when the goal is the product of many factors – your own motivation, previous skills, environment, support network, and the resources you have available to accomplish the goal. If any one of these fail, you might be unable to achieve your goal. These mistakes are harder to control and avoid in the future, but it’s still possible to learn from them. You just have to try a little harder. 

Intelligent mistakes

According to Adam Mendler, in his article “What Sales Executives Can Learn From Failure,” having the freedom to make mistakes increases creativity and work performance. Without unnecessary pressure to avoid mistakes and the shame that comes with it, employees contribute more frequently and are able to express more original ideas. Many great inventions were discovered by accident, from Post-It notes to penicillin. I try to remember this every time I feel myself starting to get paralyzed by fear of failure. That fear is stifling my creativity! 

Inventions That Were Made by Mistake

Whatever the source of the mistake, it’s important to remove any negative feelings about it and re-frame it as a source of new knowledge. This is the first step towards learning from failure effectively.

But what are the next steps? In a nutshell:

Rethink how you approach your goal

Now that you’re looking at the mistake without judgment, think of how you got into the situation.

In his article, “The 4 Keys to Learning From Failure,” Guy Winch suggests you analyze your motivation levels, focus, and mindset. Did you feel less motivated to achieve your goal at some point? Did something else distract you from it?

If your dedication and focus decreased at any time, make note of it and try to find the cause. Identifying the internal and external influences on your resolve helps you prepare to adjust for them in the future.

In some cases, discussing the failure with someone you trust can help you see the issues from a different perspective. Rely on your support network to pinpoint what went wrong and how you could prevent that from happening in the future.

Plan ahead

Identifying what caused the mistake is not enough to prevent it from occurring again in the future. You have to take steps to prevent it.

If your goal was to write a novel in six months (I’ve actually aimed at writing a novel in one month before – once I succeeded, every other time since I’ve failed), you’ve probably identified a few reasons why you couldn’t achieve the goal – lack of time, insufficient planning, or lack of motivation. Or, in my case, too many distractions – Facebook, kids, cats, Netflix binge-watching opportunities.

What can you do to prevent those issues from getting in the way of you reaching your goal in the future? In the novel example, you could scale down the scope of the story, spend more time planning it, or set aside a specific time to write undisturbed. In my case, that means lock the cats out of the room, turn off Facebook and the TV, and write when the kids are asleep.

failure is not permanent

This is something I have to keep telling myself every day. I love that Albert Einstein quote above.  Go take a minute and look at it again. By accepting failure, analyzing its causes, and defining how you can eliminate them, you’re on your way to turning your failures into successes in progress.


Ideal Boost: Best Healthy Water Enhancer

ideal boost weight loss drink

You need to drink it, But water is boring

Drinking water is so important in order to stay healthy, but many people don’t like the taste of just plain water. I like water, but I’ll be honest: even I get tired of drinking it plain. Sometimes I like a little flavor. And I used to get that flavor fix by drinking diet sodas … until I discovered the dangers of diet sodas. Although there are some who argue that diet sodas may not really be that bad for you, I choose to err on the side of caution. Diet sodas are out.

Since I’ve given up diet sodas (for the most part – I’ll occasionally get one while I’m out somewhere), I’ve started drinking a lot more unsweetened tea. But I’ve also started exploring the world of water enhancers.

most water enhancers contain artificial sweeteners

I started out trying Mio Energy. Well, actually, my first water enhancer experience was with Crystal Light, ages before. But my goal was to avoid artificial sweeteners, so I knew that was out. Sadly, however, I soon discovered that Mio Energy has artificial sweeteners too, as well as taurine which (although it does not come from bull’s urine, as some Facebook memes would have you believe), does have some health concerns attached to it, in addition to a number of health benefits.

In fact, if you’re trying to avoid artificial sweeteners (and I strongly suggest that you do) you’ll want to steer clear of almost every water enhancer on the market (with the possible exception of Stur, which uses stevia leaf extract, but even that’s not without some safety concerns).

except this one

But there’s some good news. There’s one water enhancer I’ve found that does not contain any artificial sweetener at all. I’m not sure how it gets its sweet taste (maybe it’s the potato starch?), but there is no sweetener listed on the ingredients list of my pick for the healthiest water enhancer on the planet – Ideal Boost.

ideal boost ingredient list

not just another water enhancer

The chart below shows you how Ideal Boost stacks up in other ways against the most popular water enhancers available today – and diet soda. It has a lot of things, including the Slendesta hunger blocker, that none of those other products has. That’s what gives it its super weight loss power. So, when you’re drinking your Ideal Boost, you’re actually doing something that will help you lose more weight.
best water enhancers

Here’s my take on the Ideal Boost

If you’ve read my review of the Ideal Shake, you’ll know that I got the shake samples and the Ideal Boost samples as part of the starter pack I bought. Note: I bought the starter pack for $9.99, but I just noticed that it’s listed for $8.99 on the site now, so you can get it for a dollar less than I did!

I told you in that post that I would write a review of the Ideal Boost after I tried it, so here it is.

I started with the Peach Mango flavor (which I don’t even see listed on the site anymore) because I thought I would like it the least. I’m not a big mango fan – at least not unless we’re talking about a mango that’s been picked right off the tree (I had one like that in Venezuela once, and it was AMAZING!). Still, I like experimenting and I always appreciate a challenge, so I went for it.

ideal boost weight loss drink

And I was pleasantly surprised. I actually tasted the peach more than I did the mango, which was just fine with me. The drink, although a little thicker than most water enhancers you get (probably because of the Slendesta), was really yummy. I drank it all down pretty quickly, and that’s the goal for me when it comes to water enhancers – drink more water faster. It seems that now, instead of the Peach Mango, they’re offering a Peach Raspberry flavor, which I think I might enjoy even more. I can’t wait to try it out!

The next day, I tried the Pineapple Passion flavor. Yes, it’s heavy on the pineapple, but I loved it. Yes, the water was still thick, but I was starting to get used to it. I’ll be honest, it can be a little startling at first to expect to be drinking flavored water and find out that the water is thicker than usual, but the consistency really didn’t bother me that much after the initial shock wore off.

ideal boost weight loss drink

I have to tell you now that you might get some funny looks at first when you’re drinking this. I tried my Ideal Boost in the break room at work after I ate my lunch, and one of my coworkers thought I was drinking beer! It does kind of look like beer. So, I had to explain to her what it was, and what it wasn’t. And we had a really good laugh over it!

Did it really curb my hunger?

The Slendesta hunger blocker is supposed to keep you from feeling hungry for two to three hours. Did it work for me? I have to say I think it really did.

I usually eat my lunch around 11:30 in the morning, and by 2:00 or 2:30, I’m ready for a snack – like, REALLY ready for a snack. On the two days I drank this water-enhancing weight loss drink, I didn’t feel the usual hunger pangs. So, yes. It works.

Bottom line: Ideal Boost is an excellent water enhancer. It really is probably the best one that is currently out there on the market. It has a lot of cool stuff in it (as you can see from the above chart), and it’s missing a lot of the things that make other water enhancers harmful to your health.

If you’re looking for a healthy water enhancer, you need look no further than Ideal Boost, another excellent product from Ideal Shape!

Marconi Union’s “Weightless” Song: Best Music for Relaxation

best music for relaxation

The Study and the Song

According to a study commissioned by Radox, a UK manufacturer of relaxing bath products, the British ambient music band Marconi Union and sound therapists have created the best music for relaxation ever created. The study featured music from artists as diverse as Adele and Coldplay and genres from classical to techno. This study basically looked at every form of music known to man to find the most relaxing song.

The winner, “Weightless,” is an interesting mix of underlying bass tones, rhythms, frequencies, whooshing sounds, and note intervals that relaxes its listener like no other tune can, apparently.

A continuous rhythm with a tempo comparable to a human heart’s 60 beats per minute (BPM) causes the listener’s brainwaves and heart rate to slow to that tempo. Total synchronization occurs in a process known as “entrainment.” It takes at least five minutes for your body to be entrained by any particular piece of music. The song itself is just over eight minutes long (the whole Weightless album is just over 42 minutes long, and there’s an extended version looping for 10+ hours on Youtube), which you can check out below.

Mindlab International, the organization that conducted the research, found that “Weightless” reduces anxiety by 65% and even decreases physiological resting rates by 35%. This song can relax you so much, in fact, that it’s recommend you not listen to it while you are driving because you may fall asleep at the wheel!

The study found that this song is more relaxing than a massage, a walk, or a cup of herbal tea. As Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, a scientist with Mindlab International says, “‘Weightless’ induced the greatest relaxation – higher than any of the other music tested. Brain imaging studies have shown that music works at a very deep level within the brain, stimulating not only those regions responsible for processing sound but also ones associated with emotions.” That’s partly why this song works so well to calm people down.

My own personal experience

In my own personal experience, I can say that this is definitely the most relaxing song I’ve ever heard. The first time I listened to it, I found the droning bass tones somewhat annoying, and I didn’t think it was really going to work to relax me. I didn’t fall asleep, but I did notice that when I tried to stand up after I finished listening to the song I was completely unable to. I mean, I couldn’t get my legs to work at all at first, and when they finally did they felt like jelly. I would say I was almost fully relaxed — and I didn’t even listen to the song all the way through the first time!

Then, a few days later, I took my Chromebook to the daycare where I worked so I could play the extended version on Youtube during naptime. This particular day, the kids (a classroom full of two year olds) had been running me ragged, and I was ready for a break, as in a quiet naptime. Several of these kids have a hard time settling down, and some wake up screaming soon after naptime starts. Still, I thought it was worth a try.

I was not disappointed. That day, I (and the kids) was (were) rewarded with TWO HOURS OF UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP TIME! Well, I didn’t sleep; the kids slept. I just got to enjoy the quiet. Nobody fought; nobody fussed. They all just slept. It was musical magic!

I was in another class with slightly younger children (about 18 months old) some time after that, and I thought I would try this song out with them. Yes, it worked like a charm again! The next day, I didn’t play the song, and everybody was up within an hour. They were fussy and cranky because they didn’t get their nap out, and I was completely convinced that “Weightless” has to be played during every naptime from now on.

Now, you may not have a room full of screaming toddlers you’re trying to get to go to sleep, but maybe you do have one or two. Or maybe you’re having trouble sleeping yourself. This song may be just what you need to finally settle down and get a good night’s sleep. It can’t hurt, right? And it’s most certainly worth a try.

Americans spent over $40 billion on sleep aids in 2015, and within the next two years that figure’s expected to go up to over $50 billion. Why spend money on sleep aids that may or may not work (and upon which you may grow dependent) when you can listen to some super soothing music for free, or at least very cheaply, if you choose to buy the song or album? In my experience, “Weightless” really works wonders. Don’t just take my word for it, though. Try it our for yourself today.

the 10 most relaxing songs ever

“Weightless” not your style? Don’t worry about it. Here’s the full list of the 10 most relaxing songs, just in case you want to check them all out:

1. Marconi Union and Lyz Cooper – Weightless

2. Airstream – Electra

3. DJ Shah – Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix)

4. Enya – Watermark

5. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing

6. Barcelona – Please Don’t Go

7. All Saints – Pure Shores

8. Adele – Someone Like You

9. Mozart – Canzonetta Sull’aria

10. Cafe Del Mar – We Can Fly

most relaxing songs ever

So, if you’re feeling particularly stressed out (or if you’re having trouble sleeping), take a listen to one or more of these songs. You’re sure to find something that will relax you. And if you want to find even more ways to relieve stress and anxiety, you might want to check out this post.

What Is A Meal Replacement Shake Diet … and Is It Right for You?

What Is A Meal Replacement Shake Diet … and Is It Right for You?

The object of any diet plan should be sustained weight loss — weight loss that you can keep off in the future, but finding a diet plan that works for you can be difficult. As is the case with dating, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince and live happily ever after. Many people feel that a meal replacement diet will be their diet true love, but some find that it’s just another frog. In this post we’re going to explore the reasons why. 

A meal replacement diet is one of the easiest and most impactful weight loss programs you can adapt to your lifestyle. Most dieters choose a low-calorie shake as an easy and fast replacement meal, but there are also other options – such as bars or a salad, as opposed to a burger.

The meal replacement diet is simply one type of diet plan you can choose. As with all diet plans, this one has both benefits and drawbacks.

slim fast

the popularity of meal replacement diets

I remember back in the 1980s when Slim-Fast was first gaining popularity. It seemed so easy — a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and then a sensible dinner. It also seemed a little scary (remember: I love food). I mean, not eating solid food for two whole meals? Really?

Meal replacement diets have gotten even more popular in recent decades. One reason for this is that they take very little time, and you don’t have to think about various options or plan extensively to begin or carry through with your diet plan. And, instead of replacing two meals a day, most of the current plans only have you replacing one.

Many people choose a meal replacement diet specifically for weight loss, but those with digestive problems such as Crohn’s disease, gastritis, and ulcerative colitis may lack the appetite to eat three solid, fresh meals per day. For these individuals, a meal replacement diet can be a godsend, providing essential nutrition and much-needed calories they might otherwise miss.

How does it work?

For those who need to lose weight, the meal replacement diet is considered a rapid and easy way to do so. This is the type of weight loss plan that’s targeted to busy, on-the-go people who have little time to plan or cook healthy meals. When you replace at least one meal per day with a low calorie or liquid meal and enjoy healthy, low calorie meals and snacks at other times during the day, you will decrease your calorie intake.

While it’s best to focus on good habits such as exercise and a healthy diet plan, meal replacements can work for some people to help them stay satisfied without having to consume or be tempted by high-calorie meals. When you burn more calories than you put into your body, weight loss is bound to occur. 

diet shakes for women

 

it’s not all peachy keen

There are some drawbacks to the meal replacement diet. For example, although the shakes and other types of meal replacement products (such as Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig) advertise that they provide essential minerals and vitamins, they also contain super-processed ingredients — and some of them contain a whole lot of sugar. Side note: I was on the Nutrisystem diet for a while, and so was my dad. It works. I lost 30 pounds, and he lost a whole lot more. But when we quit buying and using the products, we gained all the weight back (well, I did. He only gained back some of it). Still, remember: we want SUSTAINED weight loss. 

Choosing whole foods on a low-calorie diet plan can provide a more balanced and nutritious meal than does a replacement. Plus, when you choose real foods, you’re more apt to make the choices you need to continue making to help you keep the weight off for good.

But if you prefer a liquid meal replacement to a healthy meal, you might want to try making your own smoothies as an alternative to pre-packaged shakes and meals. Smoothies made with healthy fats and protein can provide you with great nutrition and can be a filling meal substitute.

If you still want to give meal replacement shakes or food substitutes a try, be sure you read all the labels to see if you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and perform at its best.

meal replacement shakes for women

is the meal replacement diet right for you?

 

Obviously, the meal replacement diet is going to be more appropriate and effective for some people than it is for others. Some may find it’s very easy to stick to, while others won’t be able to suppress the urge to break away from the diet plan and engage in some major binge eating.

You might find the meal replacement diet particularly appealing if:

  • You’re not sure how to put together the most nutritious low calorie meals and snacks
  • Meal planning and preparation, in general, is a definite challenge for you
  • You love the convenience of having something you can carry in your purse or backpack so you can have it with you wherever you go
  • You don’t need to lose a lot of weight, but you want the pounds you do need to lose to go away fast
  • You cringe at the thought of counting calories; it’s a no-brainer with this type of diet

meal replacement diet

 

You might want to stay away from a meal replacement diet if:

  • You prefer a more satisfying meal; i.e., one that you actually have to chew before you swallow. You may fall off the wagon really quickly if you feel deprived in such a way.
  • Shakes and substitute meals are often laden with sugar, preservatives, and other unhealthy ingredients. There are some good alternatives out there. You just have to know where to find them.
  • Replacement meals may also prove to be too expensive for your budget. This is the main reason my dad and I stopped using the Nutrisystem diet. Be sure to some comparison shopping before you choose a plan.
  • You may not learn how to make healthy choices if you rely heavily on pre-packaged meals.

Before you decide to start on a meal replacement diet, you need to carefully weigh the pros against the cons to see if it’s the right diet choice for you. If you discover that it’s the perfect choice for you, you’ll want to look out for next week’s post, in which I’ll discuss how to prepare for a meal replacement diet.

Do You Eat Too Much? Here’s How to Tell

our love affair with overeating

Everybody eats. Everybody has to eat, or else they die. And, if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that most of us really enjoy eating, especially when we’ve come in contact with some great-tasting food! Unfortunately, we don’t always know when we need to stop eating. This is particularly true of the North American culture, in which we have some amazing food that’s served in very large quantities (anybody seen Supersize Me?). Do you eat too much? Think about that question for a long time. The answer may surprise you.

homer simpson eating donuts

While we may laugh at humorous situations like Homer Simpson eating until he can’t physically move and think it’s all fun and games, in reality it can be anything but. The negative consequences of eating too much can range from a simple mild stomach ache in the short term to the many health risks associated with chronic obesity, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes that affect people for the rest of their lives.

More often than not, the typical overeater does not stuff food in his or her mouth to the point at which his/her pants are about to burst wide open. Instead, we simply end up eating more than we need at any certain time, or eating until we’re full rather than eating until we’ve gotten the nutrients our body needs.

We do not have the natural constraints our ancestors did to prevent us from overeating. Several millennia ago, it wasn’t even possible for most humans to overeat because neither large-scale agriculture nor food processing even existed until fairly recently in human history. Currently, most humans (especially the ones who live in North America) have access to more food with more convenience than ever before.

freedom from emotion eating

what drives us to eat more than we need?

Even though we have more food more readily available to us than did our ancestors, we still have the power to stop eating before we get ourselves into trouble. So what keeps us eating, even though we know we don’t need to?

Emotional eating

Many people struggle with emotional eating. I know I sure do. I definitely have an emotional connection with food, and maybe you do. Do you find yourself eating more when you are depressed, stressed, or just bored? I sure do. And that’s not a good thing.

A study in the journal Appetite researched the eating habits of adolescents who were at an especially high risk for obesity. The primary result they found was that “depressive symptoms were associated with significantly greater consumption of total energy and energy from sweet snack foods, which, over time, could be anticipated to promote excess weight gain.”

One of the primary ways we can detect whether we may be eating too much is to monitor the reason why we are eating. Are we eating because we are hungry, or because of an emotional issue we are dealing with?

Knowing the importance of tracking what I’m eating and how I’m feeling when I eat it is what led me to create my 30-day food, exercise, water, fitness, and emotional eating tracking journal. You can get the PDF version for free when you subscribe to my email list, or you can buy the paperback version on Amazon.

personal fitness tracker

Hypoglycemia

Another consideration is symptoms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. If you’re anything like me you know the symptoms of hypoglycemia well. But, just in case you haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing the symptoms of hypoglycemia, here’s a quick rundown:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling shaky
  • Hunger
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Pale skin
  • Pounding heart; racing pulse
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Weakness

common symptoms of hypoglycemia

A research study from the Medical University of Warsaw found that hypoglycemic symptoms can lead people to eat more in order to satisfy their body’s urges to increase insulin. It is always important to remember to practice moderation when eating sweets because they (or at least the crashes that occur when we come down off of the sugar rushes) lead us to eat far more than we actually need.

Your Own Body Will Tell You

There really is no better indicator of whether you are eating too much than your own body. If you experience frequent constipation, blockage, bloating, vomiting, or stomach aches, your body is trying to tell you that it has had enough. More often than not, if you feel the constant need for laxatives or antacids, your body knows that you have taken in far more food than you need, and it wants you to know about it. 

In addition, your body’s energy and mental alertness levels will give you clues that you are eating too much. While we all enjoy an excellently cooked meal or delicious snacks, it’s important for us to remember that, biologically speaking, food is simply fuel our body needs to consume so it can turn it into energy.

When we bog our system down with excess fuel, or fuel of poor quality (junk food, anyone?), our energy will decrease. We feel sluggish and less alert. By eating the wrong kind of food we overload our digestive system, in effect, and we decrease our energy stores instead of increasing them.  

tips to stop overeating

Believe me, I love food just as much as the next person, and I’m totally guilty of overeating at times. In fact, I’m pretty grateful that our bodies give us warning signs when we’re eating too much, or too much of the wrong kinds of foods. 

Overeating evidences itself in emotional symptoms, like depression and increased stress, and in physical symptoms, like hypoglycemia, low energy, and digestive issues. If you experience any of these on even a semi-regular basis, you can be pretty certain that you do, in fact, eat too much.

But how do you stop? What happens if you know you’re eating too much, but you’re not sure what to do about it?

The truth is: going from eating too much to eating just the right amount can cause a lot of discomfort in the way of hunger pains. Your body gets used to a certain amount of food being given to it, and all of a sudden it’s not. It’s going to rebel against you for a while.

One of the best ways I’ve found to avoid hunger pains is to add a meal replacement shake and/or specially formulated snacks into your daily routine. I love the products from IdealShape. They block hunger for hours and really help keep you from eating more than your body needs. Plus, they have lots of awesome essential vitamins and minerals! You can read my full review of the IdealShape shakes here.

So, tell me: Do you think you overeat? Do you know you do? What steps are you going to take to change that?

Understanding Chronic Inflammation and Aging

Chronic Inflammation and Aging

Inflammation is a biological process that has received quite a bit of media attention in recent years and has been the subject of numerous health trends, especially in the fields of diet and weight loss. Inflammation is defined by the National Institute of Health as “a very complex response to an injury, infection, or other stimulus, in which many different cell types and secreted factors orchestrate protective immunity, tissue repair, and resolution of tissue damage.”

New research suggests that there is an important link between chronic inflammation and aging, with some scientists thinking that inflammation is THE single most critical factor in human aging. While the jury is still out on whether this is really true, we can certainly review the current existing information to discover whether inflammation is something we need to be concerned about if we wish to age gracefully. SPOILER ALERT: It is!

The Research

Most research has been focused on understanding the role of inflammation among the elderly, especially as far as degenerative diseases are concerned. While the overall role of inflammation in the human lifespan from youth to old age is still unclear, there is a fair amount of consensus that inflammation plays a primary role in the accelerated aging process that is usually seen among the elderly.

degenerative aging disease
Staff Sgt. Nick Crouse, a medical technician with the 193rd Special Operations Wing’s Medical Group out of Middletown, Pa., takes the blood pressure of a patient. Crouse and other members of the 193rd Medical Group provided free health screenings at the Hawaii County Office of Aging in Hilo, Hawaii, June 14. Members of the 193rd Medical Group are in Hilo for Medical Innovative Readiness Training.

 

A recent panel organized by the National Institute of Health and National Geroscience Interest Group on aging stated that “It is now recognized that a mild pro-inflammatory state is correlated with the major degenerative diseases of the elderly.”

What causes inflammation?

This begs the question: how does inflammation start in the body?  

A really accurate answer to this question requires a great deal of medical and scientific knowledge and jargon to properly express and understand. I don’t have this, and you might not either.

But a reasonably concise summary from a recent study in the review journal Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery explains, “The inflammatory process induces oxidative stress and reduces cellular antioxidant capacity. Overproduced free radicals react with cell membrane fatty acids and proteins, impairing their function permanently.”

free radicals and inflammation

What exactly does all that mean? Inflammation, simply put, is the body’s attempt to repair an abnormal situation in the body. 

Here’s an example: You get up in the morning, but you’re barely awake. Your eyes aren’t fully open, so on your way around the bed, you stub your toe on the bed post. That toe, since you stubbed it really hard, starts to swell and goes from a bright red color to black and blue as it heals and goes back to normal.  That inflammation process is the body sending reinforcements to the hurt area to protect and/or heal it.

When inflammation goes chronic

Over time, unresolved inflammation can turn chronic. Chronic inflammation is what contributes to the aging process. As research has found, chronic inflammation induces stress (which is interesting, because it is a result of stress on the body, so it results in what causes it), and certain bodily functions and capacities (including the ability to deal with stress) are severely limited. Many of these are critical to the aging process, so these functional problems speed up aging. 

turn back the hands of time

how to prevent inflammation

Now that we have a basic understanding of the aging process and inflammation’s role in it, how do we prevent inflammation from occurring? There is no definite answer to this question; however, two different recent studies examined the role of calorie restriction on the inflammation process.

Both studies, from Ageing Research Reviews and Antioxidants and Redox Signaling examined the anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects of calorie restriction and exercise. This might not be a great surprise to anyone, but these studies found that an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle increased inflammation and, as a result, the aging process.

In fact, the study from Antioxidants and Redox Signaling found that “major chronic aging-related diseases such as atherosclerosis, arthritis, dementia, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases, are inflammation-related.” It is certainly not a coincidence that most of these conditions are also related to a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet choices.

Antioxidants have been found to reduce the work of free radicals and inflammation within the body. Common antioxidants include vitamins A, C, E, folic acid, and beta carotene. One of the best antioxidant supplements I’ve ever found comes from my favorite online shopping club. This supplement is backed by some really strong research evidence that shows it helps significantly reduce inflammation and the problems it causes. It was  one of the first products I bought when I joined the club several months ago, and it’s one of the main reasons I’m determined to stay a customer for life. It’s really that amazing!

Summing It All Up

It is fair to conclude that inflammation is strongly correlated with, and may even be a direct cause of, many aging and degenerative conditions we face later in life. We can also be secure in the knowledge that inflammation is a reactive process of our body in an attempt to heal situations that threaten physical balance, or to combat stress-inducing physical conditions, like poor dietary choices and lack of exercise.

To boil it down to the simplest of terms: inflammation increases the aging process, and poor diet and lack of exercise increase inflammation; therefore, stick to a healthy diet as much as possible and get regular exercise to stay younger longer!

What do you think? Have you ever considered inflammation to be a problem before? What steps are you going to take to reduce it for a healthier, livelier you?

References

 

All Natural Infant Colic Remedies

All Natural Infant Colic Remedies

Any parent whose baby has suffered from colic can tell you that it is one of the most excruciating experiences imaginable. There’s nothing worse than seeing your baby in pain and not being able to do anything about it. And you’ll try anything that might provide colic relief for your baby.

But before you can find the best colic remedy, you need to know for sure that your baby has a real colic issue and not some other, less serious, tummy trouble. How do you know if it’s really colic? Here’s a quick, easy guideline to follow:

If your baby cries for three hours a day straight on at least three days a week for three consecutive weeks, then you’re most likely dealing with colic.  

colicky infant

Thankfully, neither one of my babies suffered from colic, but my husband’s baby sister did, and I know of plenty of babies at the daycare where I work that have suffered from it. There are plenty of different remedies for colic, but not all of them will work for every baby. You’ll want, of course, to find the perfect solution for your unique situation. And, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to find an all-natural remedy. If you’ve tried all the proper feeding and burping techniques and your baby is still crying continuously, study the following list of some of the most effective remedies available and try one (or more) of them out today.

Music/Sound

Traditional lullabies, classical music composed for infants, and heartbeat/womb/white noise CDs are very popular relaxation aids for babies suffering from colic. You can even find digital versions of each of these types of sounds on Amazon. Some of the best ones are:

  1. The Happiest Baby on the Block
  2. Bedtime Mozart
  3. Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
  4. Sleep Aid for Newborn Baby

Some parents have had great success by placing their baby in a car seat on top of a running dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, or by running a vacuum cleaner. A gentle shushing sound in baby’s ear can also work wonders, as well as soft whispers, humming, or singing.

Another popular choice for soothing fuzzy babies is the Sleep Genius app.  This app also works well for helping adults who are having trouble falling asleep!

diet/nutrition

Bottlefed babies with colic may show improvement if switched to a different formula, such as soy. I know this one little switch worked amazingly well for one infant at the daycare. Soy or lactose-free formula can be more expensive than other types of formula, but the extra cost you have to pay can be worth every penny when it comes to the extra comfort it buys your baby.

Mothers of breastfed babies may have to pay close attention to their own diets to make sure their babies are not reacting negatively to certain foods they are eating. Try eliminating the following common culprits one at a time for a week to see if your baby shows any  signs of improvement: dairy, caffeine, chocolate, and gas-producing foods like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, peppers, melons, tomatoes, citrus fruits, beans, and peanuts.

gripe water

As I mentioned earlier, my babies never had any problem with colic, but my older one did have some trouble with gas, even after we switched her to a pro-sensitive formula. Gripe water became my new best friend. Turns out, it can also be a helpful solution for colicky babies.

You have to be sure to check the ingredient lists before you select the best gripe water to buy. Many claim to be all natural, but a careful study of their ingredient lists reveals that they include artificial ingredients and preservatives. Colicky infants’ digestive systems certainly do not need any of these potential irritants, so avoid these at all costs. Two of the best all-natural gripe water brands are Colic Calm and Mommy’s Bliss.

You can also make your own gripe water by using the recipes found here and here.

all natural infant colic remedies

Digestive support

One of the things I didn’t know about before, so I wasn’t able to use them with my babies, is probiotics for digestive health. I’ve been taking them regularly for about a year now, and I wish I’d been using them my whole life. They make THAT much of a difference! I’ve also started giving them to my girls to improve their overall health.

You can start your infant off on the right track by giving them probiotics. This digestive supplement solves a whole host of physical problems, including colic. Several companies make infant probiotics, but the best come from Gerber, Mommy’s Bliss, and Culturelle.

You can also get something called Natrum Phosphoricum 6X. This is a natural salt your body (and your infant’s body) needs. Our adult bodies generally produce enough on their own, but this is not always the case for infants. Supplementing with this may help your infant overcome his/her problem with colic.

Warm Aromatherapy bath/Massage

I know I personally find a warm bath to be just the thing when I need something to soothe and calm me down. Some parents find that a warm bath calms their colicky babies down. Add a few drops (between 4 and 7) of lavender essential oil to a warm bath and get ready for the beautiful sound of silence.

For an even more soothing experience for your baby, follow up the bath with a massage. Focus on the tummy area to relieve painful trapped gas, and move your baby’s legs in a “bicycle” motion to help your infant get the gas out on his or her own. You can research other baby massage techniques on the Internet or in books like this one. You can buy massage oils specifically designed for infant massage to further enhance the relaxation.

swaddling

Babies are often soothed when they are swaddled or held close to their mothers’ chests where they can hear the heartbeat, since this reminds them of the comfort and safety of the womb. You probably learned the swaddling technique at the hospital before you brought your baby home. I know I did.

If they didn’t teach you how to swaddle your infant at the hospital (or you don’t remember what they showed you because you were busy focusing on other things), you can find lots of website tutorials on swaddling an infant. This, for example, is a great step-by-step guide. You can also find ready-made infant swaddlers, like the Swaddleme, on Amazon.

motion

Walking, rocking, vibrations (remember the washing machine mentioned above), and movement are very comforting to most infants. The good old-fashioned rocking chair may be all it takes.

Some parents have been known to take their babies outside (sometimes just a little fresh air helps) in a stroller or drive around in the car until the baby falls asleep. I know my husband did this with both my little girls when they were first born. It worked really well for the older one, but not so much for the younger.

You can also try walking around with your baby in an infant chest carrier or sling, so your baby can feel close to you and you can keep your hands free to do things around the house. You can also walk around the room holding your baby in “the colic hold.” In this position, your baby is facing down across your arm (with his/her head toward your elbow), and your hand is under your baby’s abdomen, where you can apply gentle pressure.

Another great motion tool is the infant swing. My younger daughter loved to be in her swing, and it almost always worked to get her to quit fussing and go to sleep.

milk allergy and infants

All of these things have been shown to help soothe colicky babies, although as I mentioned previously not all methods may work for every baby. Try one or a combination of all of the above to find the one that helps give your baby the relief he or she needs, and you might just find it ends your suffering as well!

Sugar Detox Diet Success Tips

diet success

Remember when we talked about how addictive sugar can be in the first post of this series? As you get further along in the sugar detoxification process, you may become acutely aware that you’re a sugar addict. And you might not even have realized you had a problem before. 

Researchers now know that withdrawal from soft drinks, sweeteners, and processed foods can be alarmingly similar to withdrawal symptoms experienced by cocaine and heroin addicts.

The sugar detox diet we’ve been talking about addresses some of these symptoms by offering solutions through food choices, vitamin supplements, and exercise. If you’ve become dependent on highly processed foods, you may feel some of these symptoms, but adhering to the diet plan can help reduce the symptoms. After you’ve been on the sugar detox diet and the withdrawal symptoms begin to subside, your muscle cells will once again become sensitive to insulin, and your body will begin to function optimally. You’ll even see some improvement in the appearance of your skin and hair.

Alternative Treatments

If you’re experiencing especially strong withdrawal symptoms as a result of your break from sugar, you may want to try some natural methods such as acupuncture and meditation. Exercise can also help lessen the impact of sugar withdrawal.

dietary changes

The sugar substitute galactose can also help you overcome strong cravings. It’s a healthier type of sugar that doesn’t have any effect on your metabolism. You can also help reduce your cravings by reducing your overall carbohydrate intake and increasing your essential vitamin and nutrient consumption.

It’s especially important to increase your intake of antioxidant supplements like vitamins E, C, and B complex, in addition to supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid supplement. Anything you can do to restore your metabolic balance will be helpful in reducing withdrawal symptoms.

Enlist the help of plants, roots, and herbs in your desire to break the addiction to sugar. Some of these additions to your diet can help restore the metabolic process. Some herbs that have been shown to definitely aid in the treatment of metabolic syndrome are ginseng, bitter melon, and berberine (found in Golden Seal and Oregon Grape).

nutritional data

increase your nutritional knowledge

Make sure you learn about the foods you’re consuming. The success of this diet plan depends on you adhering to a balanced diet of the five main food groups and being aware of your sugar intake at all times.

STICK TO THE PLAN

In the first two weeks, it is critical to strictly adhere to the plan. This takes willpower – especially if you’ve become highly addicted to sugar. Listen to your body, and don’t give in to the sugar cravings.

Wake up earlier

If you’re anything like I am, this next success tip is going to hurt. I like my beauty sleep. I’d probably hibernate for weeks at a time, if I could. But that’s not good for you if you’re doing a sugar detox.

Instead, you need to start waking up a little earlier — about 45 minutes before your normal breakfast time, when it’s easier to recognize real feelings of hunger. This will help you pay much more attention to the signals your body is giving you.

Sugar has become the nemesis of the modern world. Don’t let your sugar addiction get the better of you. Take the time to learn how you can resist sugar addiction and help your body return to health and vibrancy (you’ve taken the first step on this journey by reading this series of blog posts – good for you!). Take control of your health by cutting out the sugar, and check out my Thinkific course on the sugar detox diet if you want more in-depth information and more detailed meal plans. 

Sugar Detox Diet Meal Plan

sugar detox diet plan

If you’ve been following this sugar detox series from the beginning, you may be thinking that you’ll have to give up a lot of great-tasting food to achieve success. But that’s really not true. There are a lot of delicious recipes and foods available to help you reduce your sugar intake.

Some are convenient and make great snacks, while others take a bit more time to put together because they are natural and not processed.

Smoothies and Shakes

One meal that you can have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner is the ever-popular smoothie. I love a good smoothie, and it’s so easy to create without adding any sugar at all.  

It’s important to use fresh ingredients whenever possible when making smoothies. Fruits such as papaya, pears, and kiwi contain good sugars and can be used to make delicious smoothies. Blueberries are also amazing in fruit smoothies for weight loss, and they’re one of my favorite fruits because of their antioxidant value. I almost always use Greek yogurt as a base for my fruit smoothies because it’s low in sugar and high in protein, but you don’t really have to do that if you don’t want to. Almond milk also makes an excellent fruit smoothie base because it’s low in sugar, but it doesn’t have as much protein as Greek yogurt.

How about a vegetable smoothie? It probably doesn’t sound that great, but I promise you you can make it really tasty. I recommend using beet juice as a base for any vegetable smoothie. And check out this book for over one hundred of the best green smoothie recipes available (including both fruits AND vegetables).

In addition to smoothies, you can incorporate meal replacement shakes into your daily diet plans. I especially love using meal replacement shakes in place of breakfast (it really is the most important meal of the day). One of my favorite shakes is from IdealShape. These things are delicious and are full of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. And if you’re looking for an IdealShape discount code, you’ve come to the right place. You can get one free when you buy two with code: SUPERSHAKE (for a limited time).

CHEESE

I love cheese – real cheese. Not the fat-free kind. That’s not really cheese. And I love that you can (basically) eat as much as you want when you’re trying to eliminate sugar from your diet. 

Choosing cheese on a sugar-free diet can be a bit confusing. Let me explain. Milk has sugar (lactose), so cheese made from milk also contains this sugar. It’s just that some kinds of cheeses contain more lactose than others, depending on the process used to make the cheese (some cheese-making techniques use a culture that consumes the lactose.

Goat and sheep’s milk typically contain lower levels of lactose. You can make a cheese omelet for breakfast (or lunch or dinner) adding in some avocado, spinach, and herbs like chives or parsley. That will give you the perfect healthy, sugar-free way to start your day.

Soups

When you’re eliminating or reducing the amount of sugar in your diet, you can easily turn to comforting soups that contain the right sort of carbohydrates to help increase your metabolism. Vegetable soup with tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, celery, onions and whatever other vegetables you enjoy is always a good choice for either lunch or dinner.

You can also branch out from typical vegetable soups to creamier versions using spinach and carrots. This is my favorite creamy spinach soup recipe, and this one is my favorite cream of carrot soup recipe.

breads

If you’re a bread junkie (we love bread here at our house), you don’t have to do without it on the sugar detox diet. You can get gluten-free bread at the supermarket or Amazon, or you can make your own (you’ll probably need a bread machine for this). There’s nothing better than the smell of fresh-baked bread.

If you don’t want to chance it with the bread, you can opt for gluten-free crackers when you want to try to make sandwiches.

SNACKS

Sugar-free snacks can revive you when you experience afternoon slumps. Instead of reaching for the snack-size candy bar, reach for the veggies. They always make great snacks, and you can make great dips from sour cream, onion, garlic, and other herbs and seasonings.

Can’t get past your desire for the candy bar? IdealShape also has some amazing low-sugar snack bars that can help you control sugar cravings and hunger pains throughout the day. This double chocolate one really tastes like a brownie. Who wouldn’t love to eat brownies while they’re losing weight and cutting sugar out of their diet? I was sold on the first bite!

healthy snack bars

DINNER IDEAS

Low-sugar dinners can be exciting when you create dishes that are both filling and beautiful to look at. Lamb, chicken breasts, and salmon are some main courses that will give your dinners plenty of variety.

For a ton of healthy, nutritious, low-sugar dinner ideas, visit this site.

Dessert

You can even have dessert on your sugar-free diet plan. One great option is to make a berry tart using a gluten-free pastry crust and coconut milk. Sometimes I’m tempted to skip dinner and head straight for the dessert when this is served. I love my berries! For more impossibly delicious low-sugar dessert ideas check out this site.

It’s not hard to keep things interesting on the sugar detox diet plan. By following some general guidelines about which food items to use and which to avoid, you can create some amazing low-sugar dishes that will delight your entire family!