A Personal Note

I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have been exposed to excellent input in personal growth. With many years of education and facilitating personal growth seminars, helping people achieve more of what they want in their lives, I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Today I would like to share some insights with you, hopefully something will stand out for you and you’ll gain some balance.

Most often unbalance begins in the mind. We become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of tasks that lie before us; or, we don’t believe we can get things done in time. We end up unconsciously thinking in a way that defeats us rather than helping us. These ways of thinking are called Cognitive Distortions and they can shape and/or hinder our perception of reality. Hence, we become unbalanced and might even feel “unhinged”.

Mental filtering is a form of tunnel vision where we tend to focus on only one thing or one area of life, ignoring the rest. We end up seeing only the negatives and fail to acknowledge the positives.

Then there’s jumping to conclusions. Usually, those conclusions are unjustified and not based on actual fact or evidence, but rather on feelings and personal opinions. A part of this includes assuming we know what someone else is thinking (mind reading), when we have no idea at all.

Are you blaming yourself for your problems and everything else that goes wrong in your life? It’s important to take responsibility for yourself, in fact it’s admirable, yet it can end up being a very burdensome habit-of-mind that leads to strong feelings of guilt and regret.

While this list is far from complete, it does offer some clues into how our thinking can sabotage us.

Here’s something you can use to help bring balance back into your thoughts:

Once you recognize your thinking is off-balance, stop and take a deep breath. Then ask yourself: What am I thinking about? What is it that I’m reacting to? Consider the bigger picture and view the issue from the outside, How would someone else see this? What is going on here? What is really true?

Once you’ve answered those questions, take action. What’s the best thing I can do here for myself, others, or the situation?

I’m a professional in the field of personal growth and habit change. I’m here for you and together we can find the answers you may be seeking.

Walking the Camino

Post-Camino Reflections

My time on the Camino is over insofar as the physical presence is concerned, but I carry the thoughts and reflections inside. They are relative and have affected my life profoundly.

I’d like to share an exercise with you and just one of the many things I learned while on this trek.
Prior to leaving for Spain and even while walking the Camino, I carried and read a book by Paulo Coelho called The Pilgrimage, a biography of his own personal walk on the Camino. In the book he shares a variety of exercises he did while on his trek and I chose to borrow some of them for mine. Below is one that became very profound for me. It’s simple but very challenging at the same time.

The Speed Exercise

Walk for twenty minutes at half the speed at which you normally walk. Pay attention to the details, people, and surroundings. The best time to do this is after lunch.
Repeat the exercise for seven days.

My Revelation

Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, it can be torture if you are moving a mach speed. The idea is to try to find pleasure in a speed that you’re not used to. Coelho was advised that by changing the way you do routine things allows a new person to grow inside of you. But when all is said and done, you’re the one who must decide how you handle it.

At the beginning of the newsletter I told you I would share a revelation I had with you. Well, it was through this very exercise that I discovered something about myself that applies to everything in my life.

The terrain we experienced on this walk was varied and at times very challenging. Long, steep hills with often-times dangerous declines was the norm. It was at the beginning of our walk that I decided to try this exercise and got my walking partner to join me in it. We slowed our pace from about five kilometers per hour down to the pace I remembered from walking with my toddlers. That’s pretty slow. It was definitely challenging, especially when everything inside wants to get moving.

We walked like this for several minutes and came upon a cherry tree growing all by itself on the side of the hill. We would have missed it had we been walking at our normal pace. We stopped, picked cherries, ate our fill and carried on. Flowers, butterflies, insects … life was all around us.
But, the real clincher for me happened as we were scaling yet another steep hill. I was looking down as I walked, watching as one foot landed in front of the other and then it hit me!

I can climb any mountain before me by simply putting one foot in front of the other and going slowly.

Now, that may sound obvious to you, but I want to tell you that I got to the crest of that steep hill and I was not out of breath, I wasn’t sweating and I had hardly noticed the incline. My nature is to get the job done quickly. My Mother used to constantly tell me to slow down. I was always in a hurry … impatient and rushing to get everything done. I was especially impatient with myself.

This has turned out to be a life lesson for me. I am very patient with my clients but not so much with myself. I am learning to be patient with myself, which will have an effect on everything else in my life.

Introspection as a tool for life

Introspection as a tool for life

Here are seven ways introspection can be a positive tool in your daily life:

  1. It allows you to notice negative patters in your life.
    Maybe you keep crawling back to that toxic relationship, convincing yourself that through all of the frustration and inconsistency, the person will eventually change.
    Maybe you’re continuously undermining your efforts at attaining the health and wellness you desire by sabotaging yourself.
    Whatever the case may be, introspection allows you to recognize these patterns, and how and why they have a detrimental effect on your emotions and outlook.
    From there, you can consider alternate approaches to these situations and eventually, migrate away from the stressors altogether.
  2. It keeps you focused on the bigger picture.
    When we don’t have an overall goal in mind, our daily tasks become meaningless and increasingly frustrating. Therefore, it’s important to have a clear vision of where you want to see yourself in the future.
    Write it down if you have to, and don’t forget to continuously remind yourself of what you hope to ultimately accomplish. As a result, you will have a more positive attitude toward your current obligations.
  3. It prevents you from worrying about things out of your control.
    An infuriating traffic jam, a boss who never considers your opinions, a torrential downpour when you planned a weekend at the beach — you get the idea. No matter how many times we’ve been told not to stress about what we can’t change, we do it anyway.
    It’s difficult to realize we don’t always have total control of the outcome, and sometimes, we have no choice but to adapt to unfavorable conditions.
    Introspection allows us to eventually detach from these aspects over which we have no influence, and instead, direct our energy toward things we can absolutely improve on ourselves.
  4. It helps you face your fears.
    We all want to be that person who can dive into any challenge headfirst and come out successful. But, let’s face it: We’re all afraid of something.
    Whether it’s rejection, failure or something else entirely, introspection allows you to admit your fears to yourself and eventually learn the best way to handle them.
    This can be a trial-and-error process, but simply recognizing what scares you is a great starting point.
  5. It allows you to clearly define happiness on your own terms.
    When are you most happy? Who do you most enjoy spending time with? What accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
    These questions may seem cliché but they hold a lot of value. By recognizing the positive events in your life, you can apply your knowledge to future goals and endeavors.
    For instance, if a quick phone chat with your best friend always lifts your spirits, take the time to do so every day.
    Or, if you feel most accomplished after independently completing a project, or sticking to your fitness routine, start to take more initiative and exert that same self-starter attitude in other areas.
  6. It allows you to make decisions based on your conscience.
    When it comes to making significant life decisions, the important people in your life will naturally have opinions. However, introspection helps you make decisions based on fully understanding what is right or wrong for you.
    Make choices based on what you truly believe, without letting other people’s input sway you. While it’s okay to ask for others’ advice and feedback, ultimately, trust your gut — it won’t fail you.
    Plus, by following your conscience, you’ll, in turn, feel better about the path you chose.
  7. You will finally get different results.

When we continuously go through our lives the same way, we inevitably block the chance of changing things for the better.
By becoming more self-aware, we are able to have a better understanding of what we truly want in life. Naturally, this involves making changes, whether they’re significant or menial.
Of course, nobody likes change. It’s uncomfortable and scary, and we seek comfort in what we know.
However, this is why it is critical to ask ourselves, is it worth it to take as little as five minutes out of our day for introspection in exchange for an increased chance of happiness? Most of the time, it’s safe to say you already know the answer.

The Power of Self-reflection!

The Power of Self-reflection!

I am a mother of three now-grown people, all of whom – when they were little – were amazing at asking the question, “Why”? Mummy, why is it raining? Mummy, why does it get dark? Mummy … and on it would go. I made it my practice to answer as often as I could and when I didn’t know, I’d say so.

However; like many parents, at times I also made the rather grave error of saying, “Because” and leaving it there.
The fact is that the question “Why” is the basis for all scientific processes. It’s the motivating question for research. So, what happened that we fail to ask the question these days? Perhaps it’s a lack of time on the part of busy parents, or the lack of patience. The modern education system was developed in the midst of the industrial revolution and failed to provide stimulation to excite inquisitive minds. It was designed to prepare people for factory work rather than groom scientists. Certainly some things have changed, but the basis remains.
A poll done a few years ago found that children at the age of five had a 98% creativity level, but by the time they hit ten years of age it had dropped to 20% and by the time they reached the age of 25, it was a mere 2%. Now, that’s sad.

So, how can we fix it?

I think the answer lies in the ability to reflect, specifically, self-reflect.
Isn’t it interesting that we spend most of our time thinking about everything but our own inner lives? We are usually more concerned about what others are thinking about us than we are about what we think of our own behaviors. By the way, what someone else thinks about me is, in my opinion, none of my business.
Throughout our daily lives we are in a constant state of observation and analysis – be it work related or something someone texted to us. We have become masters of obtaining data and examining it for deeper meaning or an explanation. We can think critically about all kinds of things, but not especially about ourselves.
Introspection involves examining one’s own thoughts, feelings and sensations in order to gain insight. Being introspecitive is often a rare quality in many lives, particularly young adults, and with good reason: it requires slowing down and taking a breather from the craziness and busyness of life and that isn’t always easy.
In a society fixated on fast-paced environments and a “go, go, go” mentality, it’s difficult to find the time to sit down and reflect. However, setting aside a small portion of your day for self-examination can be a lot more helpful than you might expect.

Something I learned along the French Way

During the 14-day period walking the Camino, I was faced with many periods of silence. It was during those times that I was left entirely alone with my own thoughts – with myself. I had an opportunity to watch myself as I reacted to various things presented during this time. I saw how I conducted myself and heard how I spoke.
Some of it was wonderful and some of it needed change. Being alone with myself was revealing, enlightening, sometimes disturbing, but definitely educational.
Did I emerge a different person? Probably. I know for certain that I am more quiet and resolute inside than I’ve been in ages.
It’s not that I’ve never practiced introspection – it is that it was for a very extended period of time and, when you’re walking 25 km per day and not talking a lot, well, it’s a lot of time for thinking.

You don’t have to leave town… or, maybe you do.

Introspection doesn’t have to mean leaving town. Taking a few minutes every day to reflect on life – your life – is often as good. On the other hand, if you can’t possibly find a few quiet minutes in your life, maybe a little break in a very quiet environment will be just the ticket.
Regardless, whether you start your day with quiet meditation and self-reflection for a few minutes, or find yourself in the woods or a lonely beach, self-reflection can be the best way to make the changes you need to have the life you really love to live.

Walking the Camino

OFF TO THE CAMINO!!

We’re finally here. We are now on the trek of the El Camino de Santiago de Compostella trek as you are reading this newsletter. It’s difficult to put into words exactly what I’m feeling right now … kind of a cross between super-excited and trepidation.

Our itinerary will take us to Paris for three nights and two days and then on to Pamplona, Spain where we begin the first day of our 14-day, 25-km per day walk.  The sites we’ll visit and the sights we’ll see will all be available on my Facebook page, Nurit Amichai, and also on a couple of Instagram pages – one of which is in my name.  And, of course, you can access the blogs and vlogs on my website.  I haven’t used the Instagram pages for some time, but promise I’ll be using them now – especially since some of my clients use nothing but Instagram.  🙂

I hope you’ll follow along as we take this incredible journey.

www.forthehealthofit.co.il

Facebook:  Nurit Amichai

Instagram:  Nurit Amichai

 

Now, just a word about the rock you see in the picture here.

There’s a tradition of taking a rock or stone with you on the Camino and leaving it somewhere along the trail.  The act can mean a number of things … leaving cares behind; marking your presence on the trail; or using it as a connecting point for change, among other things.

What we’ve decided to do it take a rock (and I do mean a ROCK), on which we’ve written a few instructions, and leave it at a point on the trail in a place where it can be seen.  Part of the instructions include the following:

Find it.  Move it.  Post it.

So, when someone finds the rock they should carry it to a new location and then post a picture of the rock on Instagram under the hashtag:  #stoneunturned

We’ll be following the journey of the rock and you can, too, as you follow me and my friend over the coming days.  We leave on June 13th and arrive back in Israel on July 2nd.

Be sure to comment on Facebook and Instagram!  I look forward to hearing from you.

Walking the Camino

Walking the Camino

With just under one month to go, my excitement level for this upcoming adventure is rising steadily every day.  We leave Tel Aviv on June 13th!  I can hardly believe it.

Camino TrailBefore I go on with this article I need to make some corrections to my last piece about the Camino.  First of all, I gave you the incorrect name of the city from which we will begin our trek.  It is called Pamplona.  The second correction is that we end up at the Atlantic, not the Mediterranean.  Forgive me for providing incorrect information.  Truly, as a health professional, that’s just not acceptable.

So, as the date quickly approaches, I’m busy ensuring I have everything I need for this walk.  That would include all of the necessary paperwork, passport, applicable other cards and my phone and tablet.  While I’m away I’ll be connecting with my clients via Skype, Messenger, or Duo and I’m so grateful for technology.

The baggage won’t be large or heavy this time around as there will be no need for multiple changes along the way.  We’ll be literally “washing and wearing” repeatedly the same things.  For a person who likes to wear different clothes every day, this will be a little challenge.  I did score some great sandals to take along for walking as well as my boots (the orange ones I talked about earlier).  Rain gear, shorts, tights and some “real” clothes for the times when I need to look like a lady …

I’ll be posting on Facebook under nurit.amichai and on my webpage:  www.forthehealthofit.co.il

Be sure to drop in occasionally to see what I’m up to, view the remarkable scenery, and hear from some of the people I meet along the way.

We’re planning a party to celebrate our departure and we’ll probably have one to celebrate our return.  I mean, what better excuse for a party than celebrating the Camino!

 

How to kick junk food

How to Kick the Junk Food Habit and Eat Healthy

The good news is that the research shows that the less junk food you eat, the less you crave it. If you can find ways to eat healthier, you’ll find that your cravings for junk food diminish.
I’m a serious fan of James Clear and he has written a strategy that seems to work, so I’m going to share it with you here:

1. Use the “outer ring” strategy and the “5 ingredient rule” to buy healthier food.
The best course of action is to avoid buying processed and packaged foods. If you don’t have it in your house, you can’t eat it. Furthermore, if you don’t think about it, you can’t be lured by it.
We’ve talked about the power of junk food to pull you in and how memories of tasty food in the past can cause you to crave more of it in the future. Obviously, you can’t prevent yourself from ever thinking about junk food, but there are ways to reduce your cravings.
James has a strategy he calls “outer ring strategy”, and something I teach my clients very early on in our experience together. Just shop on the outer ring of the grocery store, you know, where all of the fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy are stocked. Now, just because it’s on the outer ring doesn’t mean it’s all healthy, but you will definitely avoid a lot of unhealthy foods this way.
Then there’s the “5 ingredient rule” … if something has more than five ingredients in it, leave it on the shelf. Odds are the food has been engineered to make you want to eat more of it.
We know that the additives in some foods are there to create cravings, so my own personal philosophy regarding reading food labels is this: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

2. Eat a variety of foods.
As we covered earlier, the brain craves variety and novelty.

If you’re craving the crunch and cream of an Oreo, try instead dipping a carrot in hummus – you’ll get a very similar sensation. Try cooking with new spices and flavors you haven’t used before. Preparing ethnic foods is a favorite of mine. By trying new ethnic dishes, I learn about different spices and ways to prepare foods.

3. Find a better way to deal with your stress.
You may wonder why I haven’t mentioned this before, especially since so many people use food as a coping mechanism for stress. Stress causes certain regions of the brain to release chemicals (specifically, opiates and neuropeptide Y). These chemicals can trigger mechanisms that are similar to the cravings you get from fat and sugar. In other words, when you get stressed, your brain feels the addictive call of fat and sugar and you’re pulled back to junk food.

We all have stressful situations that arise in our lives. Learning to deal with stress in a different way can help you overcome the addictive pull of junk food. Heading off to the gym, doing a yoga class, taking some time out for a short guided meditation or doing a craft are all options when it comes to heading off stress eating.

Where to Go From Here
One of my goals with this article is to reveal just how complex poor eating habits can be. Junk food is designed to keep you coming back for more. Telling people that they “need more willpower” or should “just stop eating junk” is short-sighted at best.

In order to create new habits around food, it’s important to ask for what you need. Most of us would love to believe we can handle it by ourselves and, when we don’t, we head back into the spiral of poor eating habits.

It doesn’t have to be that way for you. If you’re ready to kick junk food and get your mind set on good behaviors that serve you, contact me and Let’s Talk.

junk food

What Happens to Your Brain When You Eat Junk Food

If it’s so bad for us, why do we keep doing it?

You already know that junk food is unhealthy. Besides knowing the net effect on your physical health, you might even know that eating junk food has been linked to increases in depression. So, if that’s the case, why in the world do we keep eating the stuff?
The science that provides some of the answers might surprise you.

Why We Crave Junk Food

The science below is provided from a report by Steven Witherly, a food scientist who has studied what makes certain foods more addictive (and tasty) than others. According to Witherly, when you eat tasty food, there are two factors that make the experience pleasurable:

First, there is the sensation of eating the food. This includes what it tastes like (salty, sweet, umami, etc.), what it smells like, and how it feels in your mouth. This last quality — known as “orosensation” — can be particularly important. Food companies will spend millions of dollars to discover the most satisfying level of crunch in a potato chip. Their scientists will test for the perfect amount of fizzle in a soda. These factors all combine to create the sensation that your brain associates with a particular food or drink.
The second factor is the actual macronutrient makeup of the food — the blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that it contains. In the case of junk food, food manufacturers are looking for a perfect combination of salt, sugar, and fat that excites your brain and gets you coming back for more.

Here’s how they do it…

How Science Creates Cravings
There are a range of factors that scientists and food manufacturers use to make food more addictive.

Dynamic contrast. Dynamic contrast refers to a combination of different sensations in the same food. In the words of Witherly, foods with dynamic contrast have “an edible shell that goes crunch followed by something soft or creamy and full of taste-active compounds. This rule applies to a variety of our favorite food structures — the caramelized top of a creme brulee, a slice of pizza, or an Oreo cookie — the brain finds crunching through something like this very novel and thrilling.”

Salivary response. Salivation is part of the experience of eating food and the more that a food causes you to salivate, the more it will swim throughout your mouth and cover your taste buds. For example, emulsified foods like butter, chocolate, salad dressing, ice cream, and mayonnaise promote a salivary response that helps to lather your taste buds with goodness. This is one reason why many people enjoy foods that have sauces or glazes on them. The result is that foods that promote salivation do a happy little tap dance on your brain and taste better than ones that don’t.

Rapid food meltdown and vanishing caloric density. Foods that rapidly vanish or “melt in your mouth” signal to your brain that you’re not eating as much as you actually are. In other words, these foods literally tell your brain that you’re not full, even though you’re eating a lot of calories.

The result: you tend to overeat.

Sensory-specific response. Your brain likes variety. When it comes to food, if you experience the same taste over and over again, then you start to get less pleasure from it. In other words, the sensitivity of that specific sensor will decrease over time. This can happen in just minutes.

Junk foods, however, are designed to avoid this sensory-specific response. They provide enough taste to be interesting (your brain doesn’t get tired of eating them), but it’s not so stimulating that your sensory response is dulled. This is why you can swallow an entire bag of potato chips and still be ready to eat another. To your brain, the crunch and sensation of eating Doritos is novel and interesting every time.

Calorie density. Junk foods are designed to convince your brain that it is getting nutrition, but to not fill you up. Receptors in your mouth and stomach tell your brain about the mixture of proteins, fats, carbohydrates in a particular food, and how filling that food is for your body. Junk food provides just enough calories that your brain says, “Yes, this will give you some energy” but not so many calories that you think “That’s enough, I’m full.” The result is that you crave the food to begin with, but it takes quite some time to feel full from it.

Memories of past eating experiences. This is where the psychobiology of junk food really works against you. When you eat something tasty (like a bag of potato chips), your brain registers that feeling. The next time you see that food, smell that food, or even read about that food, your brain starts to trigger the memories and responses that came when you ate it. These memories can actually cause physical responses like salivation and create the “mouth-watering” craving that you get when thinking about your favorite foods.

All of this brings us to the most important question of all. Food companies are spending millions of dollars to design foods with addictive sensations. What can you and I do about it? Is there any way to counteract the money, the science, and the advertising behind the junk food industry?

hiking boots

Walking the Camino

Last month I introduced you to my plans for June … walking the El Camino de Santiago Compostella Trail in Spain.  The trek itself, from beginning to end, can be done in a few weeks.  However, since I will only be able to take a couple of weeks off to walk this adventure, my friend and I will begin in Pompella and work our way to the Mediterranean Coast of Spain, ending in Santiago where we hope to meet up with some friends from Canada who are also walking the trail around the same time.

These boots were made for walking …

Camino TrailThe most obvious and, dare I say important, piece of equipment we need to make this walk successful is good footwear. I’ve read horror stories of people who walked the Camino (and other treks) only to be delayed by painful blisters on their feet.

I remember getting blisters from shoes that didn’t fit well and the very thought of walking miles and miles on sore feet leaves me cold.  I want to enjoy this walk and as a result, when I was in Italy last fall I purchased a pair of excellent hiking boots, very light weight and in one of my favorite colors – light orange.  They’re not only comfortable (I’ve been breaking them in all winter), but they’re also a fashion statement. 🙂

Carrying more than a backpack

Not only will we be carrying a backpack, we’ll be carrying our bodies along the route.  To prepare for this part of the adventure, my friend and I have been working on our posture and back strength.  For the past several months, we’ve devoted one full workout a week to strengthening our core and back muscles.  A strong core ensures we’ll be able to hold our bodies upright and protect our backs from stress caused by bearing weight.

Of course, strong legs and endurance are key to fulfilling our daily quota to ensure we arrive in Santiago when planned.  Our plan is to cover 25 km per day, something we know is doable in about five hours, six if we dawdle.

What are your plans for this year?

Back in the early part of this year I produced a Facebook video about my plans for the Camino and challenged you to find something significant for yourself to accomplish this year.  How are you making out with your plans?

There’s nothing like a big goal to get you motivated to make changes.  It’s my hope you’ll be inspired by my efforts.  Be sure to follow me on Facebook as I continue my preparations.  Once I’m in Spain, I’ll be vlogging and posting to keep you abreast of my walk.

An Exercise in Letting Go

An Exercise in Letting Go

Many years ago I studied a method called the Sedona Method. It is a very simple way to let go of thoughts that do not serve us. I learned, through using this method, that I am not a helpless victim of my own thoughts, but rather a master of my own mind.

If you’re holding onto thoughts that no longer serve you, that keep you in a place where you are stuck and unable to move forward, try this exercise.

Exercise: Letting Go

As you read this, take a deep breath and, as you exhale, allow all the tension to leave your body. Let your scalp and your forehead and your face relax. Your head doesn’t need to be tense in order to read. Relax your tongue, throat, and shoulders. Let your back, abdomen and your pelvis relax and breathe peacefully as you relax your legs and feet.

Are you noticing a change in your body since you began this little exercise? Notice how much you hold on. Now, if you’re doing it with your body, you are doing it with your mind, too.

In this relaxed and comfortable position, say to yourself, “I am willing to let go. I release. I let go. I release all tension. I release all fear. I release all anger. I release all guilt and sadness. I let go of all old limitations. I let go, and I am at peace. I am at peace with myself. I am at peace with the process of life. I am safe.”

Go over this exercise two or three times. Feel the ease of letting go. Repeat it whenever you feel thoughts of difficulty coming up. Sure, it takes a little practice in order for the routine to become part of you, but when you put yourself in a peaceful state first, it becomes easier for the positive thoughts to take hold. No need to struggle or stress or strain … relax and think the thoughts that nurture and support your best self. Yes, it really is that easy.

Here’s Another One

I love this exercise because it really is incredibly simple and has taught me that what I think about really is my choice. Yes, you do have a choice about what you think.

So, think about something you want to change. It could be a situation with a person, a place or thing. It might be about your eating habits … whatever it is, simply focus on it and feel what it’s like to want to change it. Now, ask yourself these questions:

Could I let this go?
Would I?
When?

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with changing things in life that you’d like to change. All too often we get stuck in “wanting” rather than in taking action.

Of course, for most of you, these exercises may be a bit of a stretch. The purpose in sharing them with you is to help you see that you can take control of your thoughts and use them to power positive change in your life as opposed to keeping you in a state that doesn’t serve you.