By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, and Katie Delaney, RD, Take Control Health Coaches

The holiday season is fast approaching, which may lead to overindulging on holiday treats, and challenge your health-related goals. Instead of veering off course, we challenge you to implement some or all of the 10 tips below to navigate the season a little easier, and stay on track.

Tip #1: Don’t deprive yourself with impossible restrictions around holiday foods. Instead be smart and focus on fueling your body with good foods through the holiday season while still allowing some of your favorites. Swearing off foods usually spells disaster, so instead, make a list of the foods you look forward to every season and plan for them.

Tip #2: Come prepared. While we all have traditional dishes we make, try adding in a few healthier side dishes to bring to a party or at your home. That way you can embrace tradition and your health goals in a great way that all your friends and family can enjoy as well.

Tip #3: Beat temptation by eating a protein-rich snack prior to a party. Focus on filling up your plate with fruits and vegetables, and analyze the rest of the options. This goes back to not depriving yourself, but finding balance. If you find one of the foods on your favorites list, go for it! Then enjoy some healthier options to help you stay on track.

Tip #4: Set realistic weight goals. If you set monthly weight loss goals, consider setting a goal of simply maintaining your current weight during the holiday season. That, in itself, is a huge accomplishment for the majority of us. Or, try reducing your weekly or monthly weight loss goal to help you feel on track without setting yourself up for failure. We all want to meet our goals, but we also want to acknowledge the ebb and flow of life, which helps us create healthy and sustainable change.

Tip #5: Find fun and unique ways to stay active through the winter months. For example, use things in your environment like chairs, soup cans, or other household items to create a home gym for cold, snowy days. Focus on 10 minutes a day to keep your habit going.

Tip #6: Celebrate yourself and what you have accomplished each month, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Holiday season often brings stress, fatigue and “winter blues.” Make sure you hydrate, rest, and practice stress management to keep yourself healthy through the cold season.

Tip #7: Don’t skip meals. If you find yourself saving up for a big holiday meal by skipping all other meals for the day, you will likely overeat in the end. Instead, focus on eating balanced meals every 3-4 hours during the day, like a usual day.

Tip #8: Be cautious with liquid calories. From eggnog, hot chocolate, to your favorite rum toddy, holiday beverage treats should be thought of as just that, a treat. Do not deny yourself, however, be mindful, even though it is liquid, it still has calories. If you are going to fill up on a holiday drink, cut back on holiday desserts.

Tip #9: Take the focus off food. Instead of making cookies and other holiday treats, plan to make or create holiday crafts with family and friends. Or how about volunteering at a local organization to help them prepare holiday gifts for those in need? Some families like to create holiday memories with family skiing or sledding, ice skating, or other active events.

Tip #10: Practice healthy holiday cooking and treats. Prepare your favorite holiday dishes with these healthy suggestions:

  • Pumpkin: not only for carving, but a great option to use as a substitute for fat when baking or cooking. Use canned or pie pumpkins, not field pumpkins. Save the pumpkin seeds and roast for a nice snack.
  • Baked apples: instead of the usual chocolate treats, try baking some apple slices.
  • Gravy redux: refrigerate gravy until hard, and skim off the fat. This could save you up to 56 grams of fat per cup!
  • Turkey: remove the skin to save about 11 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz serving.
  • Green bean casserole: use fresh beans or frozen (not canned) and add chunks of potato instead of cream soup, top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
  • Mashed potatoes: use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic and garlic powder along with parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
  • Quick Holiday Nog: four bananas, 1 ½ cups skim milk or soymilk, 1 ½ cups plain nonfat yogurt (could use Greek), ¼ teaspoon rum extract, and ground nutmeg. Blend all ingredients except nutmeg. Puree until smooth, top with nutmeg.
  • Desserts: Make crustless pies, substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies. Top cakes with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

 

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By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Have you heard of intuitive eating? Intuitive eating is essentially what we learn as babies and children: eat when you are hungry, and stop eating when you are full. It’s listening to your body’s internal cues, and knowing what to feed your body.

Intuitive eating is an important part of leading a balanced lifestyle. Being able to eat what your body needs, and not too much or too little, is a huge accomplishment. Learning to do this after dieting is hard, but not impossible.

Anyone can try intuitive eating, as long as you understand that it may take time to learn your body’s signals. It isn’t eat anything, in large quantities until sick. It is allowing yourself to live without food rules, and focused on eating to feel your best. It is trusting your instincts, without rules, restrictions, or guidelines to tell you what you can or can’t eat. For many of us this is a foreign concept, and somewhat scary. We have learned so many food rules over our lives, and we’ve learned to restrict our eating.

If intuitive eating is something you wish to try, here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Practice asking yourself what you are hungry for. By thinking more about your food choices, you start to see what you truly want. Sometimes that may be a salad, and sometimes that may be a cookie. With intuitive eating, both of those things fit and are included in a balanced lifestyle.
  1. Practice recognizing fullness. Set the timer, or work to extend your meal for at least 20 minutes. Focus on eating and enjoying the meal you have in front of you. Turn off distractions like the TV, and put away your phone. By focusing on your meal, you can truly tune into hunger and fullness more easily.
  1. Practice eating a food you don’t normally allow yourself to eat. Work on having a healthier relationship with whatever food that is. For a lot of people it’s a carbohydrate like bread. When we demonize a food, we make it more tempting, and feel guilty if we eat it. By finding ways to incorporate food you enjoy in a healthy way, you will end up eating less. When it is no longer a food you have to give up, you are no longer obsessed with it. It simply exists as part of your life.
  1. Be patient. Just like any skill or habit, we have to repeatedly work at it.

If you think you may be ready to try intuitive eating, mention it to your health coach, or check out the resources available at intuitiveeating.org.  It’s a tool that can help you work toward creating a healthier relationship with food.

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By Laura Del Guerra, RD, CDE, Take Control Health Coach

A few years ago, I found myself struggling to follow through on my intentions to eat right and exercise regularly. I was promising myself “You’ll start next week.” Then next week would come and I would continue down the same road. I weighed more than I wanted to, was out of shape, and had signed up for a week long kayaking school that I was truly unprepared for.

Realizing changing on my own would not be possible, I called the gym where I had an unused membership, and inquired about hiring a personal trainer. I will be the first to admit, this was FAR outside my comfort zone. First, I was intimidated by the idea of going to a gym, and second, I was afraid to somewhat publicly reveal my physical vulnerabilities. However, I faced my fears and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I started working with a personal trainer twice a week, and over the course of the year, the change was fairly dramatic. The first thing I noticed is how much better I moved through space. I was more flexible, my balance improved, sitting and standing were easy. I went from minimal exercise, to doing something every day and looking forward to it! I put a ton of miles on my mountain bike, hiking shoes, paddle board, and kayak.

Not only did I achieve many personal goals over time, I gained a new perspective on going to a gym and working with a trainer. I sat down with my trainer, Cole, to interview him about the benefits and misconceptions about working with a trainer.

When is a good time to hire a personal trainer?

There are several ‘good’ times:

  • When the goals you have set aren’t being attained
  • If you are using the gym and have no idea what to do for an exercise routine
  • If you just joined the gym but are not going
  • You are already fit but want to know what to do to get to the next level of fitness

What should I expect at my first meeting with a trainer?

This is a time to get to meet and begin to form a relationship. You will be asked to fill out a health history. This will provide your trainer with information on injuries, smoking history, any chronic health conditions and other important medical information. Be prepared to discuss your goals. What do you want out of this relationship? What has kept you from achieving your physical activity goals in the past? You will also do several assessments including flexibility, aerobic testing, core strength, and mobility testing.

As a trainer how do you decide which exercises will be right?

I look at what my client’s goal is. For example, Laura’s goal was to be a competent whitewater kayaker, so our focus was increasing core strength, shoulder mobility, and back strength. In addition, we focused on overall mobility, as this is something that decreases with age.

What do you tell people who say: “I don’t like gyms because everyone is so judgmental.”

Many people are not comfortable in gyms. I work to take these people into a place that is out of the way and less populated than the main part of the gym. Over time we slowly move out to more populated areas. During these times, I train them on how to safely use different pieces of equipment. I also work to ensure I do not push someone past their level of fitness.

How do you respond when people ask you if they can do the same exercises at home without a personal trainer?

This is a very individualized question and depends the person’s individual preference and needs. The answer is a question of how much do I want to rely on my trainer. Overall, the biggest thing is that people continue to exercise when they are not with their personal trainer. For some clients a training session once a week is adequate and they have a plan for exercise on other days of the week. For clients who travel extensively, for example, we build their routine around hotel gyms. And finally, some people rely heavily on their trainers meeting with them several times a week and do not want to think about exercise outside the gym.

Are all Personal Trainers the same? How do I choose one?

Trainers are as individual as the people they train. Every trainer has a different style. Because you’ll be spending time regularly with this individual, it is important that first and foremost you like your trainer. If not, you won’t be motivated to go to the gym and meeting your goals will be much harder. If you’re compatible, the next thing to look at is the trainer’s background. Ask the gym what they require of the trainers they hire. What education do they have? Do they hold a college degree? If so, in what field? What type of certifications do they hold? Not all certifications are equal. Look for trainers who are certified and hold credentials from ACSM, NSCA, and NASM. All of these things will help you pick the trainer best suited for you.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Personal Trainers?

Personal trainers are notoriously misinterpreted, especially regarding education and training. However, once you start looking into their background, you’ll typically find they know more than you think they would. Many don’t realize trainers are certified nationally or that continuing education is a requirement.

So if you’ve been thinking about working with a trainer, I highly encourage you to do so. It has been a life-changing experience for me, to finally achieve some physical goals that eluded me for years. Not only that, but I’ve acquired a new perspective about going to a gym, and I’m no longer afraid! Feel free to contact me or your health coach directly if you’d like more information about how a personal trainer could work for you.

 

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By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Fall and winter are wonderful seasons, and cooler weather brings out our craving for comfort foods. But comfort foods can be heavy, and combined with our tendency to be less active, the danger arises for winter weight gain.

Instead of giving up your favorite comfort foods, try modifying your traditional recipes to reduce the calories. It’s a great way to still enjoy your favorite foods without risking weight gain. Make some slight alterations to lighten it up and try something new.

Try these six tips to lighten up your current recipes:

  1. Cook broth-based soup instead of cream-based soup. Or substitute broth for part of the cream in certain recipes.
  1. Use pureed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes. This works great on dishes like Shepard’s pie.
  1. Substitute skim or 1% milk in place of whole milk or cream.
  1. Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Great for Mexican dishes, like enchiladas, or tacos. It adds more protein and less fat to the dish.
  1. Add extra veggies to soup and other dishes. Pureed cauliflower in potato soup; diced zucchini, carrots, peppers in chili; add green beans to your stew.
  1. Try pureed veggies to thicken soups instead of heavy cream. Pureed cauliflower in place of heavy cream is one way to thicken a soup and keep it lighter, but still feel hearty.

In you’re not interested in changing your recipe, then simply focus on portion size. Pair your classic dishes with a plate of raw veggies, or start your meals with a side salad. By being mindful of portion size, you can achieve your health goals. Serving size for a casserole or combination dish should be around 1 cup to start. If you are still hungry after having one serving plus veggies, then go back for ½ cup or less. By taking your time, you can really assess your hunger and prevent overeating.

Another way to enjoy comfort foods in the winter is to add one new recipe a month, or every other week, to create more options and ideas. There are a ton of great recipes out there that are both lighter, and comforting.

In addition to altering your old recipes, and trying new recipes, make a commitment to move more! We often let colder weather keep us from being active, so make a plan to stay active. This will help combat winter or holiday weight gain.

Need some meal inspiration or lighter recipes? This article from Cooking Light has some great ideas.

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By Julie Walker, Take Control Staff

The week of October 1st through 7th is Mental Illness Awareness Week. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other organizations are raising awareness of mental illness to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for equal care.

A mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, or mood. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis. Mental health conditions include ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Dissociative Disorders, Psychosis, Eating Disorders, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder, PTSD, Schizoaffective Disorder, and Schizophrenia.

Mental health conditions go beyond the usual ups and downs of life, and millions of Americans are affected each year. Commons signs can include:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking, or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits, or feeling tired and low energy
  • And more

Recovery is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.

Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Contact the NAMI Help Line to learn about resources and find support.

Thursday October 5th is National Depression Screening Day. If you or someone you know may need a mental health assessment, you can get a free mental health screening at HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org

Look for more posts this week on our blog and Facebook page regarding Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Resource: www.nami.org

#MIAW

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By Kat Van Fossen, Take Control Health Coach

I chose Jenni W. as our Person of the Month because she showed that, even with a slow start, great results can come in the long run. She learned that losing weight is a process, starting with setting a goal of losing weight in 2 pound increments. Jenni far surpassed her own beliefs and expectations of herself by completing a marathon! She gain confidence and the strength to make good nutrition and exercise choices on a daily basis.

What made you decide to join Take Control’s Lifestyle Management program? I had been slowly gaining weight and spending less time on my health and fitness over the past several years. I reached a point where I decided “enough was enough,” and I needed to do something different to change direction. I had a gym membership which was going mostly unused, and I had almost cancelled it many times. My employer offered a gym reimbursement through Take Control, so I decided to try and utilize it as a catalyst to make a change.

What were your reasons/motivation for wanting to make changes regarding your health? My parents and in-laws began having health problems as they grew older, and I wanted to fight that and stay as healthy as possible as long as possible.

What are the biggest challenges and accomplishments in your health since you started?  What do you feel was your biggest obstacle? At this point in my life and career, my schedule is extremely busy and demanding, and I often don’t get enough sleep.  Both my schedule and fatigue create challenges for being consistent with exercise. Initially in the program, I wasn’t making a lot of progress, but about halfway through the year, I set a goal of accomplishing a marathon, and that really jump-started a significant change in my lifestyle.

What did you do to stay motivated? I found a marathon training program that I liked, and which seemed that it would be do-able with my schedule, and allow me to achieve my goal without injury. I also knew that in order to train as necessary, I needed to improve my nutrition. Finally, I set weight-loss goals in two-pound increments, and whenever I would reach a goal, I would mark the next goal on my bathroom mirror, so it was a reminder every morning and evening.

What have you gained through this process? I ran a marathon!!  Accomplishing this goal, and actually far surpassing my own beliefs and expectations of what I could do, has given me a huge confidence boost. I’m also healthier, and more inclined to make good choices about nutrition and exercise on a daily basis.

What differences do you see in yourself and the impact it has had on your health and life? I have set new goals, and have a new-found drive to work hard and place a higher priority on my health and my personal well-being. I believe that I’m also a better spouse, employee, and friend because of it.

What advice or encouragement would you give others in our program? Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Challenge yourself with something that inspires you, and start with baby steps. If it scares you a little, it will be all the more rewarding when you accomplish it. Do it your own way – don’t feel like you have to do it the way your friends or others do.

Jenni learned how to follow healthy nutrition, and to keep her body well-fueled. She gained a good sense of work/life balance, and finds the time to take care of herself. Not only has she started training for marathons, but she is in it to win it: the marathon of a healthy lifestyle.

Results:

  • Weight loss of 15 pounds
  • Gained confidence in her body
  • Gained the ability to push herself
  • Completed a marathon
  • Gained a new high priority on her health and well-being
  • Became a better spouse, employee, and friend
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By Julie Walker, Take Control Staff

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, so take a moment to remind yourself of the risk factors, symptoms, and preventative measures.

Risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Being a woman (all women are vulnerable)
  • A family history of breast cancer
  • Menstruation before age 12
  • Menopause after age of 55
  • First pregnancy after age 35
  • Being overweight
  • Being older in age

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A new lump or mass
  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Swelling of lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone

Preventative measures for breast cancer include:

  • Get to, and stay at, a healthy weight
  • Be physically active (moderate to vigorous exercise)
  • Limit or avoid alcohol
  • If you have a baby, breastfeed
  • Use non-hormonal options to treat menopause
  • If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, talk to your doctor about breast cancer risk reduction medications

Strong evidence supports the fact that eating high fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients can protect against some cancers. Examples of food that can reduce the risk of cancer includes:

  • Cruciferous and dark, leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, and kale
  • Fruits such as citrus, berries, and cherries
  • Whole-grains such as oats, barley, bulgur, whole-grain pastas, breads, cereals, and crackers
  • Legumes such as dried beans and peas, lentils, and soybeans

 

Sources: cancer.orgEat Right.org

 

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By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

We often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Here’s why:

  • It influences our body in many ways, both mentally and physically
  • Eating breakfast lowers the stress hormone cortisol
  • The satiating effect of breakfast impacts appetite for the rest of the day (it reduces it)
  • Mental function is improved for people who eat breakfast
  • It provides physical energy to move and exercise

Planning ahead for quick breakfasts will make eating breakfast easier. We’ve put together some ideas using a few kitchen staples to create a variety of options.

Oatmeal – a common kitchen staple, and very versatile. It can be made quickly, and different toppings can change the flavor to fit almost any preference.

Overnight Oats: Also known as Mason jar oats, these fun, portable, recipes are designed to be made the night before, and grab on your way out the door. The basic premise is to mix oats, yogurt, and milk with a variety of toppings. The oats can be eaten cold or warm, at home or at your desk. Here is how to make them.

Crockpot Steel Cut Oats: Set it and forget it! Steel cut oats have great fiber content. They take longer to cook than other types of oats, so cooking them overnight while you sleep is easy and quick. Make the recipe the night before, and wake up to a hearty breakfast. We love this recipe by cooksmarts.com

Baked Oatmeal Cups: The muffin of the oatmeal world, oatmeal cups are another great option for grab and go. Make a batch Sunday, and you’re set for the week. You can also bake in large batches and freeze. The Kitchn.com has a great recipe, and you can make variations on your own with the spices, nuts, seeds, or fresh fruit on top!

Traditional Oatmeal: Cooked in the microwave or on the stove, it doesn’t take long to prepare. It’s also great to keep on hand at work, for a backup breakfast or meal if you forget your lunch. Customize with nuts, spices, fresh fruit, or a mashed banana. If you buy flavored or instant varieties, look for brands that have lower sugar and higher fiber, or add some plain quick oats to the flavored packet to reduce the sugar content.

Eggs – A traditional breakfast food, at about .17 cents per serving, eggs are the least expensive source of high-quality protein. Besides being inexpensive, they are quick to prepare, and the variety of ways to prepare eggs can keep you from getting bored with breakfast. Below are some of the options that make them quick and portable.

Omelet in a Mug: Spray a coffee mug with cooking oil. Whip two eggs in a bowl and pour into the mug. Add your favorite toppings: bell pepper, onion, olives, other veggies, and some cheese. Microwave for 60-90 seconds, and you have a hot, easy breakfast. For even quicker preparation, dice your toppings on Sunday store in the fridge. Besides the mug omelets, you can use the toppings for salads or other recipes during the week.

Egg Muffins: Egg muffins are a make-ahead option that you reheat in the morning. Eat at home, or take with you out the door! We like this recipe from incredibleegg.org. Customize it by using other veggies and your preferred cheese.

Hard boiled: Another make-ahead option, hard-boiled eggs are quick and easy to take with you. Have you ever heard of a hard-boiled egg cooker? Many people swear by them. I recommend taking the time to peel them after you boil them, to save time during the week. Pair with a piece of fruit and some nuts for a well-rounded meal. Hard boiled eggs are also great for a quick snack, or on a salad at lunch.

Traditional/Scrambled: If you have a few minutes in the morning to cook and sit down to eat, that is wonderful. Fried, poached, or scrambled, everyone has their favorite style. Kick it up a notch by adding spinach or other veggies for additional nutrients.

Other – If you’re not an oatmeal or egg person, here is a list of some other simple and easy options.

  • Greek yogurt (single serving container)
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Combine the first three items above for a great well-rounded meal
  • Whole wheat toast with avocado or nut butter
  • Green smoothie

Keep your breakfasts simple – it makes them more manageable, and more likely that you’ll follow through with starting your day on the right foot. Plan ahead (and make-ahead), is one of the best ways to ensure that you’ll have healthy meals ready to go – and that’s the best way to avoid being hungry and stuck in a place with poor options.

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By Richel Stropky and Kat Van Fossen, Take Control Health Coaches

Trouble with gym membership costs? Don’t let a lean bank account be an excuse to avoid exercise. When your budget is slim, and the cost of gym memberships, trainers, and exercise equipment is big, consider these 10 tips to build a better body on a budget:

  1. Create a workout space at home. Schedule your workouts on your calendar. Lay out your exercise clothes and shoes the night before. Workout to a video or try a fitness app. Download free workouts such as interval training or HIIT workouts. Choose a playlist to listen to, and time the music to fit the length of your workout.
  2. Shape up while watching TV. Pick a different activity for each commercial and do it until the show comes back on such as jogging in place, jumping jacks, jump rope, push-ups, planks, etc.
  3. Substitute weights with items in the pantry. Use canned foods or gallon jugs of water with resistance training. Try paper plates to replace gliders for exercises that tone lower body or use with a push up as you slide arms in and out.
  4. Hit the outdoors to walk or run. Add push-ups, tricep dips, planks and crunches along the way.
  5. Workout with low cost equipment that doesn’t break the bank. Get the best benefits for the buck with dumbbells, adjustable weight bench, resistance bands, instructional DVDs, step bench, stability ball, or kettlebells.
  6. Schools, and campus workouts. Use a running track at a nearby school, walk or run on the track or the stairs in the bleachers. It’s a great place to work out in the cool fall weather. Call your local school to see if they have times available.
  7. Hotel Pools. Some accommodations open up their pool for free or a small fee to people in the community.
  8. Start a Group. Start your own walking group in your neighborhood. This is a great way to get to know your neighbors. Start a library of workout DVDs with your neighbors. You can share and even take turns working out at different homes.
  9. Community centers, churches. Ask around your community to see if anyone is offering classes such as , yoga, dance classes, or a cross training classes. These type of class can be very rewarding and inexpensive.
  10. Learn a new skill. There are many books, DVDs, or web sites that can instruct and teach new skills like learning how to do yoga. Don’t be afraid to barter, if you have a talent ask one of your fitness friends to exchange time and talents. You may be able to exchange music lessons, cooking tips, computer tech help for some fitness education or personal training.

Recommended websites:

Fitness Blender

10 Kick Butt Workouts You Can Do in 30 Minutes

Low Impact Cardio Workout for Beginners

Resistance Band Exercises

Printable Exercises from Spark People

 

 

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By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN

 

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness that can create mild to severe illness. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, and digestive issues. The best way to prevent getting sick is to get vaccinated each year.

As we enter the cold and flu season, we often hear people say they do not get flu shots because flu shots make them sick. Many people erroneously believe that they get the flu from the vaccination. As health care providers, we want to assure you that this is not the case. Here’s why:

Vaccine Composition

The flu vaccine is made with either an inactivated flu virus or with no flu virus present in the vaccine. Since neither type has an active virus, you cannot contract the flu from the vaccine.

Side Effects

Vaccinations come with side effects, and many people mistake the side effects as illness. Side effect symptoms can include soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling at the vaccination site. They can also include low-grade fever, headache, and muscle aches. But be assured, these symptoms are not the flu. Serious allergic reactions to the flu shot are very rare. If they do occur, it’s usually within a few minutes to a few hours of receiving the shot, and effective treatments are available.

Studies

Studies have been done to test whether or not flu vaccines give you the flu. One study using a randomized and blinded sample compared the outcomes between the flu vaccine and having a salt water shot. The only difference in symptoms were an increase in soreness in the arm and redness for those who had the flu shot.

Vaccine vs. Illness

Some people may argue that they would rather get the flu than get a flu shot. The flu can be a serious disease, particularly for vulnerable demographics. Those include children, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes. Contracting the flu can bring about a risk of very serious complications, including hospitalization and even death. That’s why getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking an infection.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the flu shot does more good than harm. Like with any medication or vaccine, side effects can occur, so being aware of those can be helpful to assessing your current health situation.

 

Source: cdc.gov

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