I know I’m always talking about the external, physcial benefits of working out (6 pack by summer, J-lo legs, Michelle Obama arms). But, let’s not forget about all of the ways that fitness helps us on the inside. Maintaining our mental health is critical for overall wellness. Here are the top 5 “non-physical” reasons I believe exercise is a mental health miracle drug. Keep these in mind during your next sweat session!
Super Self confidence – Pushing through physcial challenges gives us confidence which spills over into other areas of life. Nothing is sexier than confidence 🙂
Less Stress – Studies show that the most common mental benefit of exercise is stress relief. Boss getting on your nerves? Go walk it off. Angry is not a good look.
More Memory – A good sweat session boosts our memory capacity and brain power. Jocks are smarter after all…and smart is HOT
Addiction Control – Since our brains releases dopamine “the happy chemical” during exercise, we get a natural high – goodbye addictions!
Real Relaxation – Moderate exercise can have the same effect on your body as a sleeping pill. Who needs chemical drugs for a little R&R? Not us!
When we are healthy on the inside, we are beautiful on the outside! xoxo, Brit
If anyone ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, my answer was always (and still is ) a “Talk Show Host.” This weekend was like taking a step toward my childhood dream! My “fit friends” from SportyAfros.com and I got to share health and hair tips on Good Morning Texas (that’s me on the right) – woo hoo!
Then we got to share more tips during the Dallas/Fort Worth International Natural Hair Meet Up Day! I was a health and wellness expert panelist for the event and shared all of my GRIT by Brit health and fitness advice! I also disclosed my personal tips for keeping my hair healthy and well-maintained despite my long sweat sessions at the gym.
Below are Whitney Patterson and Alexandria Williams, the co-founders of SportyAfros.com and amazing hostesses of DFW’s International Natural Hair Meet up Day!
Each member of the panel, including me, lives a VERY active lifestyle. Obviously I’m a fitness instructor, but the panel also included a triathlete, a running coach and a personal trainer. While most would think that our love for fitness is what unites us, it’s actually our combined love for good health AND good hair.
That said, here are our Top 5 tips for a healthy body + gorgeous hair:
Stay hydrated – Drinking plenty water is critical for healthy hair. Not only does hydration speed up your metabolism (i.e make you sexy) it’s also needed to moisturize your scalp and thus your hair. Drink up ladies so we can keep those locks flowing 😉
Conditioner is key – I cannot say this enough. You must keep your hair moisturized! Our hair has to maintain an adequate level of natural oils to look and feel healthy. Since I sweat almost every day, I have to wash my hair a lot which strips it of natural oils. So, I always do a deep conditioning treatment and I keep a bottle of leave-in-conditioner in my gym bag to spray down my hair after workouts.
Breath & Meditate – Stress and anxiety causes hair thinning and dryness. If you notice a lot of breakage in your hair, check out your stress level. You may benefits from a little yoga or simply have some quiet time for reflection and relaxation.
Bye bye rubber bands – Make sure that the hair elastics you are using are gentle on your hair. If you are like me and wear a ponytail while you work out, be careful! We often wear our hair pulled back too tight and use hair elastics that cause breakage. Try to find a hair tie that is silky and smooth. A loose ponytail is always better than a tight one!
Biotin is your buddy – Take a Biotin supplement – trust me! It’s a great vitamin for your hair, skin and nails. It’s not expensive and it’s a super effective way to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to keep your hair healthy.
Keep these tips in mind as you continue on your healthy journey – I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me. My mom (middle), little sister (left) and I want to wish you a wonderfully beautiful week!
Image: Playin’ college basketball in 2006 – feeling FIT
This post was originally published as a guest feature on Greatist.com, the fastest growing site in health and lifestyle content, reaching more than 3 million visitors in just one year! Follow @jshakeshaft, the amazing fitness editor, who helped me with this post!
Long story short, I’m a fan of “plans.” It started in high school when I discovered Slim Fast and dropped 15 pounds. I gained that back in one summer. During college, I was captain of my women’s basketball team which kept the pounds under control. But when I entered the working world, I packed on plenty of extra “cushioning.” I tried Weight Watchers for about a month, but always skipped meetings and under counted my “points.” Then there was the Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Lipodrene diet pills and the cayenne pepper/lemon juice cleanse (Beyoncé put me on to this one). I’d lose 5-10 pounds with each program only to gain it back in a few months. I had officially reached a point where I was failing at every weight loss system. I was a 5’8” 25-year-old who weighed 179 pounds and felt “less than stellar.” I had to get it together. I REFUSED to let another day of my 20’s go by without rockin’ short shorts, high heels and lots of swag! This is when I accepted my weight control Slip up #1:I tried to be perfect.
I have a super Type A (slightly neurotic) personality and get really pumped up about new a diet plan or workout regimen. But if I slip up even once, I beat myself up and eventually quit. Being mean to myself does not help me lose weight. So, I had to accept the reality that most “plans” aren’t doable for the long haul. This meant getting rid of my “all or nothing” weight loss mindset. Instead of feeling guilty for slipping up, I started keeping a mental note of what I ate and tried to match my food intake with equal calorie burn. For example, if I killed a burger and fries at lunch, that was cool. It just meant I’d have a small side salad for dinner followed by an extra 30 minutes of cardio. Simple, right? Not quite.
Despite having this revelation and starting to feel more balanced, I wasn’t losing as much weight as I wanted. What was the problem? After downing a bag of trail mix one afternoon, I realized Slip-up #2:I ate too much. Simply put, it goes like this:
Choosing a healthy snack = a good look 🙂
Eating five servings of a healthy snack = not a good look 🙁
The fact that I ate too much was the most difficult truth for me to accept because I actually ate healthy food! The problem was that I simply ate too much of it. So, it was really hard to burn more calories than I consumed, which is the only way to legitimately lose weight. You’ve heard it before, “eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full.” Well, it’s true. I had to accept that portion control is just as, if not more, important than food choice.
On that same note, I discovered Slip-up #3: I overestimated my calorie burn. Since I work out regularly, Ialways figured I deserved a diet “buffer.” But, turns out our bodies don’t blast as many calories as we think. Calorie counters and heart rate monitors often over count calorie burn. This is because several factors like hydration, stress, diet, genetics and room temperature aren’t considered. The bottom line is this: The harder you work the more calories you burn. So, I started using the Talk Test to quickly and effectively measure my Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and indirectly measure my calorie burn. If I’m breathing really heavy (like “sucking air”) I know I’m torching calories because I’ve reached my anaerobic training zone. Now when I work out, I try reaching and staying in this calorie blasting zone to maximize the burn!
I’m not going to lie, after weeks of trying to eat less and move more, I was having some serious hunger pangs! Luckily, I found that simply drinking a glass of water did wonders for my cravings. Check this, most of the time we think we are “hungry” we are actually “thirsty” due to dehydration. Also dehydration makes us feel lethargic and we crave sugar and other simple carbs that make us fat. So there you have it, Slip-up #4: I didn’t drink enough water.
Now, I was on a roll! After a few months proactively addressing my weight control “slip-ups,” I was feeling good, slim, and energetic. So one day I decided to weigh myself. Up 6 pounds? WHAT?! How did that happen? Then I thought to myself, hmmmm… I had indulged in ice cream the night before and a little bacon at breakfast… and pizza on Friday night.
That’s when I clearly saw Slip up #5: I needed a reality check. After that random weigh-in, I started weighing myself every morning (yes EVERY day) and have done so for over 1 year now! This habit is controversial because body weight fluctuates for a variety of reasons (mostly due to hydration levels). However, the fact of the matter is that the numbers on the scale are your body weight at that time. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE (or at least it did for me)! Being mindful of my weight on a daily basis makes me think more deeply about what I am consuming, my digestion patterns, hydration levels, sweat output and calorie intake/burn. While my daily weigh-ins help keep my weight in line, my “heavy days” can be very discouraging. I have to constantly remind myself to keep the big picture in mind – my fitness, health and happiness, not just the numbers on the scale.
My slip-ups have taught me that weight management isn’t about the latest and greatest diet or workout plan; it’s about continuing on a lifelong journey of developing and strengthening healthy habits. There will always be good days and bad days, but success comes from balance. Now, at 27 years old, my weight ranges from 150-155 pounds. I’ve maintained this weight range for over a year without the use of any expensive weight loss plans or diet pills. I feel strong. I feel healthy. I feel authentic. Most importantly, I ALWAYS rock my short shorts, high heels and lots of SWAG!
What are some of the “craziest” weight loss plans/cleanses that you’ve tried?
I know most of you are already hard working, disciplined people who make sure to get your workouts in and stick with a pretty healthy diet. But when it comes to knocking off that last 5-20 pounds, it’s like nothing gives.
Well, I hear your pain. Despite being active in sports and dance since I was 3 years old, I was def a fat kid growing up. I weighed 106 pounds in 3rd grade…yeah it’s true. I also struggled with my weight throughout middle school. In high school I discovered Slim Fast and dropped about 15 pounds, but then after college I “fluffed up” again after I quit playing basketball. Now, I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’ve figured out my body enough to really be able to drop weight and keep it off.
Even though I worked out a lot and ate relatively healthy, I identified 5 key reasons why I wasn’t losing weight. See if any of these habits apply to you…
I tried to be perfect – I have a super Type A (slightly neurotic) personality and would get really pumped up about a new diet plan or workout regimen. However, if I slipped up even once, I’d beat myself up and end up quitting the plan altogether. Now, I’ve learned to be nicer to myself. Look, there will always be good days and bad days, but weight management is all about balance. If I smash a burger and fries at lunch, that’s cool. It just means I’ll have a small side salad for dinner followed by an extra 30 minutes of cardio. Don’t take everything so seriously! Just keep a mental note of what you are consuming and make sure that you always match your intake with calorie burn.
I needed a reality check – They ONLY way I’m truly able to manage my weight is by weighing myself on a DAILY basis – yes daily! Sometimes, you just need to see the numbers on the scale to give you a reality check. If you actually see that you have gained 5 pounds, you will be more mindful of what you eat. I challenge you to go to Wal-Mart, by a digital scale and weigh yourself every morning. You will thank me later 🙂
I ate too much – Even though I ate healthy food, I ate too much of it. Therefore, it was really hard to burn more calories than I consumed, which is the ONLY way to legitimately lose weight. You’ve heard it before, “eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full.” Well it’s true – portion control is just as, if not more, important than food choice.
I ate too late – Unless you are doing a hardcore cardio workout at 8:00pm, your body really doesn’t need that much fuel late at night. Try to eat most of your calories early in the day so that you have all day to burn them off! Think about it this way, everything you eat in the evening just kind of sits on you…not cute. One of my favorite quotes is, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.”
I didn’t drink enough water – So check this, most of the time you think you are “hungry” you are really “thirsty” due to dehydration. Many of us get tricked into eating when our bodies really want WATER! Your metabolism slows down when you are dehydrated. Also dehydration makes you feel lethargic so you crave sugar and other simple carbs that make you fat. Drink up, water is your weight loss friend!
I put this plan together to help me get ready for a wedding, during which I wore a very curve hugging bridesmaid dress. I had great results, so I thought I’d share with you guys. If you need to lean up really quickly, below is my official 14 day plan to get it right and tight. I like it because each element is actually a healthy habit as opposed to starving myself or taking diet pills. It worked for me, see if it works for you!
For the past year, I’ve committed my Saturday mornings to detoxing my body and catching up on missed workouts. My personal detox routine = 1 hour TurboKick class + 1 hour weight lifting class (Barbell, Body Pump, Power Sculpt, etc.) I like doing my detox in group fitness classes because of the music and positive vibe of working out with other people. However, you can do your detox routine however you like. For example, go running outside for an hour and follow it with a 1 hour weights circuit.
Here are the details of my 2-Hour Saturday Detox Workout Regimen:
Duration: 2 hours
Formula: 1 hour of high intensity cardio (breathing heavy) + 1 hour of total body resistance training (lifting weights)
Location: Preferably a gym or fitness club with Group exercise classes
The Facts: The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of cardio 3-5 times per week and 30 minutes of muscular strength training 2-3 times per week. Check this, if you do a 2 hour cardio + weights detox routine, you’ve knocked out over 50% of your weekly exercise needs. So, try the 2 hour detox and your Saturday’s suddenly get sweeter 🙂
Focus:Moderate/high intensity cardio, max calorie burn
Calories Burned: 600 – 800
Location: Any gym with cardio machines
Commentary: I made this workout for my friend/colleague who’s just starting to get back into the gym. We did it on Tuesday and our booties were burning on Wednesday morning! I like it because it provides a TON of cardiovascular training by incorporating basic cardio machines and body weight drills. You can easily do it at the gym with a good play list going on your iPod. If you’re trying to drop a few pounds for summer, throw this workout into your routine and you’ll be turning heads…or at least losing water weight 🙂