How Hugs Can Transform Your Relationship

Plenty of couples spend time, energy, and money trying to fix relationship problems, increase intimacy, or simply kick things up a notch in their relationship.

Well, there is a free way to do all of the above that is often overlooked and underrated:

Hugging.

Yes, hugging helps all of the problems listed above because when done as a regular practice (and in the right ways) helps couples via the release of oxytocin.

Oxytocin has some really awesome side-effects, including:

  • Increasing feelings of bonding and comfort
  • Decreasing levels of cortisol (i.e. stress relief!)
  • Increasing levels of sexual interest and arousal between couples

Now, to get these awesome benefits you first must learn how to hug in a way that releases oxytocin and feels good to both partners.

Here’s some guidelines to do just that:

  • Hug for at least 10 seconds (count Mississippi’s or make that 20 fast counts), hugging briefly doesn’t give the same benefits.
  • Hug in a way that supports you and your partner… that is, don’t lean into them to the point where you would fall without their support, and don’t be so distant that all but your arms are touching. A good hug embraces both people (the self and other) and may take some practice to master — but is totally worth it with someone you feel safe with (and hopefully that someone IS your partner).
  • Do this at least once a day. Some couples report getting a lot of benefit from doing this first thing in the morning and then when they meet with each other again in the evening.

I challenge you to try hugging this week and see if it helps your stress levels go down and increases your feelings of generosity towards others. If you don’t have a partner, don’t dismay — you can also do this with a close friend you trust or a family member. This challenge is pretty cool because it doesn’t just benefit you, but also your partner. Also, you may want to tell them what you’re up to before you do it so they’re not too caught off guard. 😉

Listen.

In this day and age, it’s common to see many on their cell phones during social situations. Loved ones, parents, the person across the table. Through the addictive nature of instant gratification we are socialized to be constantly stimulated and distracted. When we are distracted, like a parent who is checking their status updates while they are watching their children, we may physically be “there”, but we are not fully responsive and present to the needs of a child. This act of being unavailable, will take it’s toll on the generations to come in their health, development, and ability to emotionally regulate.
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The same thing applies to the relationship we have with our bodies. Our hunger cues, our illness cues, and our intuition. So many people live their lives “distracted” that it is hard to hear and be responsive to our bodies’ needs. Typically, clients struggling to eat healthfully look at me like I’m nuts when I offer that a part of how I teach healthy eating is really becoming in tune with our bodies. Many of my clients come in with the notion that their bodies are the ENEMY. They wish to WILL it into submission and feed it a guidance plan that makes sense to the brain, but doesn’t really take into consideration the body’s wisdom.
 
We must listen to our body to fully know it’s truth. We must lay down our distractions and quiet our minds so that we can hear what it has to say. This is part of the reason that it’s important to sit down and focus on your meals vs. scrambling food into our bodies while multi-tasking. Now, I realize that we can’t always give our full attention to our bodies (and I am guilty of having meals over a keyboard myself)… however, if we begin to give it even a few minutes of our time, to quiet our minds and listen, there is so much we can learn.
 
Eat your heart full. ❤ Jenny Helms

Those Pesky Hunger Pangs

Do you fight your appetite? Do you think, “If only I could NEVER be hungry – then I’d lose weight…”? or, “Appetite? Ha, I learned to ditch that braud long ago…”

Well – you’re wrong. Yes, I said it. It’s not quite what you are wanting to hear. But I promise it’s real, tough love.

Your body is REALLY smart, and this desire will always take over any “body control” strategy we implement. Much like breathing, at some point – you’re gonna come up for air.

What if I told you that appetite is your friend? It’s there to help you, and it’s a really smart, natural process.

Here’s the facts:

  • Trying to control appetite triggers “survival mode” otherwise known as “starvation mode” and our appetite will become even more ravenous.  This creates a STRESS response and also increases anxiety. This makes for crazy making, our body & our willpower will be at war. And spoiler alert: the body will win. 
  • Stress = more insulin & cortisol which signals the body to store weight and lose muscle. The OPPOSITE of what most people are going for.
  • Stress also = the brain losing it’s ability to key us into healthier foods and instead craving donuts and bread bc your brain thinks you are in starvation mode ( I mean, why else would you ignore it’s hunger calls?)  Your body then initiates an internal campaign for you to grab food that creates a surplus of energy (sugar and carbs) and may even make you feel sick.
  • Appetite has it’s own flow.  You CANNOT control it.

What can YOU do?

  • Stop fighting your appetite. Really. 
  • Invite your appetite back into your life and work towards becoming more mindful & aware.
  • If you’ve been ignoring you’re appetite for a while, it may take some time for it to regulate (like in major eating disorders or emotional eating), however, trust the process. The more you practice tuning into it, the more aware you will become.
  • Side note: if you have issues with your hormones & have desperately tried to become mindful to your appetite, you may need to seek physician assistance to help your body once again regulate your appetite & cue you into the wisdom you need. 

Eat your heart full,

Jenny

Eat your heart out: Why most diets fail.

For years, I have observed through study, time, and my own inner battles that there is something very off about the way most people relate to food.

Like most mental illnesses, I believe that eating disorders lay on a spectrum– go to far to one side or the other (or pass diagnostic criteria) and you get the label.

But what about the people who lay around the edges? What about the fact that most of our population is on the verge of being overweight and obese?

Are we just an incredibly lazy society?

No.

We as a society, are incredibly smart. However, many of us are socialized to uphold  very specific belief systems about food. And drug, diet, and food companies want it that way.

Even more, the science behind our appetite and the engineered products we consume every day is confusing our bodies, brains, and in essence–creating far worse problems than “being overweight” alone.

That’s why I have become passionate in dedicating my time to studying these relationships. The relationship we have with the food on our plates, ourselves, and the science and psychology behind these relationships and the food itself. (Meta-meta, I know!)

Most Weight Loss programs and Coaches (although extremely well intentioned)  usually only address one or two pieces of the equation. The problem? We are systemic beings and so is our relationship to food.

Heck, if dieting and eating well wasn’t “complex” we would hardly ever say the word “weight loss” or “dieting” and the (not so successful, but profitable) billion dollar diet industry would be swept out of business (cue sad violin in the background).

Most programs address a symptom. But to change your lifestyle, more so–the identity you’ve built with the way you relate to food, we need to dig to the roots and get at the CAUSE.

This is often scary, takes time, and messy. 3 things we’ve all been programmed to run from and instead toward quick-fixes, that often become long-term problems (thank you, greedy business strategies).

But I assure you, if you delve into a program or with a coach/therapist that addresses the roots of the issue from a systemic perspective– your life WILL change. You will grow. You will develop a healthier relationship with food and yourself.

This is what I do in my practice. I strive toward addressing the roots from multiple angles. If you’re interested in delving–(for local Wichita, Kansans) you can set up a free 15 minute consultation with me by calling (316) 425-7774 or e-mailing jennyahelms@gmail.com. Not so local? Send me an e-mail and I’d be happy to brainstorm with you some other ideas/references.

“Eat your heart full”,

Coach J

What’s the big D-eal about Vitamin D?

Odds are YOU are vitamin D deficient. It’s estimated around 85% of Americans are (even those who take multi-vitamins religiously).

And although we still walk, talk, and breathe just fine without it–this little vitamin is crucial for optimum health and well being over the long haul.

In fact, Vitamin D deficiency has been tied to:

  • Autoimmune Disorders
  • Mood Disorders (depression & anxiety)
  • Premature Aging (wrinkles and cell damage)
  • IBS
  • Increased levels of stress
  • Decreased levels of energy

So, if you’re interested in becoming more youthful, happy, and healthier run by your local whole foods or vitamin shoppe and pick out some Vitamin D-3. Now the 3 there is crucial, because it’s the REAL DEAL. The vitamin D-2 stuff is synthetic, less potent, and overall less useful to our bodies and partially why vitamins get a bad rep these days.

The older RDI’s (recommended daily intakes) are from the 70’s, and the newer research suggest that humans need about 5,000-10,000 IUD’s of Vitamin D-3 to really reap the benefits and not be deficient (that’s why your normal multi-vitamin likely isn’t cutting it).

Other ways to get some quality D-3 is from eating salmon, lean meats, and mushrooms.

Oh, and you can soak up some rays on a sunny day–that does the trick too.

So why are beach bums typically on the “chill, youthful, and happy side”? Vitamin D-3, bro.
Until next time,

J out.

Posing: A Tool for Power and Rapport

We all have a pose, a gesture, a way of holding ourselves. On the surface, many people never broach the topic–but subconsciously? The brain makes a lot of judgments based on how a person holds themselves. Especially when it comes to demonstrating power and building rapport.

Recent studies have even shown that the WAY you stand or pose, has an even more profound impact on how others perceive you in power roles than gender (see: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201504/can-women-ever-be-taken-seriously). Sorry ladies, no more excuses.

Additionally, studies by Amy Cuddy have shown the profound impacts of holding a power position (or standing with your hands on hips) for just two minutes before an interview can actually help your brain and physiology communicate more power and calm in a job interview.

So– what exactly are power poses? Power poses typically consist of a person taking up more space (vs crossing their arms and legs), having good posture (which also technically takes up more space), and being still (not fidgeting).  Side note: I wonder if they’ve done any studies with high heels, do women in high heels give off more “vertical” or a sense of power than those who don’t? What about men with a slight heel? If you’ve heard of these studies–I’d be curious to learn more. 

Hands on hip isn’t just sass any more–it’s a power pose. Gesturing with arms–power. Now a word-of-caution, all of these movements should happen at appropriate times and with calm. If you’re flailing your arms around? That doesn’t convey power/respect, but goofiness… which is totally appropriate in other scenarios, but not when you’re trying to gain gravitas.

Next time you want to emphasize some power and rapport? Stand a little taller, wider, and stiller.

Until next time,

J

Be yourself. No, really.

We’ve all known or been in the shoes of the person who wants to please everyone. It’s exhausting. (For them and for those around them) And guess what? It’s also impossible. When the goal at the end of the day is to make EVERY person happy, it’s coming from a place of needing something, and not from a place of truly wanting to “be a caring person”. Part of being a HEALTHY person who also really loves caring about people is setting boundaries and being authentically yourself. Sure, you probably have some messy parts that you’re trying to work on (don’t we all!) but I think part of being AUTHENTICALLY you, is digging deep and figuring out what you like, dislike, and truly believe in when it comes from a place of being healthy and “feeling like your enough”, not from a place of needing something from others. And that means embracing your ability to say no to things, people and to accept that–guess what? Not every one is going to like you… and? That’s totally brilliant.

So you want to “be someone else”, eh?

Trying to emulate others completely is… well, quite impossible. I think when we see qualities in others that we are “envious of” or we wished we could “be someone else” what our minds are really trying to say is–“Hey! I really admire this quality, let’s work towards this bc I think it fits your schema of you!” So–dig deep, and ask yourself, “what specifically am I “jealous of” or do I “want to be like” in this person. We are all made up of a very unique combination of parts, so we are all wonderfully, authentically us.

So, be yourself. Really. And if there’s things you don’t like–work on it. If there’s people you “wished you were”, find the deeper meaning in that desire and chase it. And last but not least, love yourself through that process of that continuous growth (after all, we are all works-in-progress or WIPS as I fondly refer to it). There’s a saying that the moment we embrace an “ugly” or undesired emotion or characteristic about ourselves, it is then we can truly look at it and work towards cultivating a more desired state of being (i.e. we honor that part and it lets go of taking over our brains).  Because we can embrace the “ugly parts” and learn from them… or? We can pretend they don’t exist as they continuously cycle through our lives and manifest in one way or another.

If I had to pick, I’d pick honoring who you are, and cultivating the best version of YOU.

Until next time,

J out.

Appetite: Friend or Foe?

Recently, I’ve heard an increasing chorus of,  “AHHH… if only I weren’t hungry right now” (and I’ve been guilty of this myself). Now that “Bikini season” is under way, more and more fad diets are popping up and people deciding to try different methods of losing weight. Amongst all the confusion, liquid cleanses, and body wraps–how does our appetite play a role? Should we suppress it or indulge it?

Well, your appetite–like thirst, is a built-in body mechanism that is there to tell you, “hey, you’re lacking some nutrients to feed my awesome body processes!” much like how you feel the urge to drink water when you’re dehydrated. Many people begrudgingly think that the appetite is an enemy–but it’s really there to help, that is–if you listen to it and feed it in a healthy way.

If you suppress your appetite, here’s the bodies initial response: increased stress hormones (cortisol) and insulin. What do these guys do? They tell your body to store fat. So while you may think skipping a meal will lower your calorie intake for the day, and in essence help you lose weight–this may be working against you.

However, word of caution: feeling true hunger is not an all access pass to eating a bunch of donuts or nutrient deficient foods–your body is telling you that you’re LACKING nutrients in the first place so feeding it sugar and empty calories will also help you pack on pounds (and your appetite will only bug you again in an hour or so once it realizes it didn’t get the nutrients it needed).

So how do we befriend the often under appreciated appetite?

Feed it healthy, nutrient foods. A small meal with some healthy fats, protein, and complex carbs should do the trick. My rule of thumb is to always have some clean protein in your meal. Some snack ideas? Apples and almond butter, hummus and carrots, chicken and guac, a small protein filled salad, beef and veggies, a whey protein shake (as pure of form as possible) with all natural peanut butter and bananas, or eggs and fruit.

At the end of the day, our bodies are our friend. They are intuitive and know WAY more about what’s going on in their complex systems than we do. So to honor that, it’s best we feed it with kindness and nutrient dense foods (tho indulging on occasion, is totally fine too! That’s part of the human experience after all).

Until next time, J out.

8 things that USED to scare me about CrossFit

Once I became curious about the weird, fitness sport they call “CrossFit” it took me about a year and a half to finally take the dive. Why did I wait so long? Well, quite a few reasons, but it all boils down to one main theme: Fear. Here’s the things that kept me from one of the things I really enjoy now, and what I’ve learned since finally biting the bullet and joining a box.

1. THE COST.

Okay, let’s face it. CrossFit is not cheap. What’s worse? When I first became interested I was a broke Undergraduate consisting on eggs, and the kind freebies of friends and social events. Free food? I’m in. However, when you take a look at where that investment goes– towards specialized equipment (and the inevitable damage that happens to it), a close knit family and close-knit instruction, and what’s more? Spending less on other things (i.e. unhealthy food, drinking, what I would try to entertain myself with outside of CrossFit), and preventative health care. After all, having a healthy body pays off in so many ways–my immune system kicks butt, my muscles burn off excess calories and I’m not gaining that icky fat that hangs around people’s waist lines and makes them sick over time. Medications? I take none. Now that’s not to say that cost isn’t still a factor but most boxes if you talk and negotiate can work a pretty good deal, you can trade services, or realize that the investment you’re making into yourself is worth the cost. All around, at the end of the day, it’s a really good investment. For me, happiness and health is more than it’s weight in gold.

2.  POTENTIAL INJURY.

When I first mentioned my curiosity to my affectionately referred to meat head gym-goers their initial response was, “Good luck, you’re going to get injured! Have fun with that…” While people have indeed gotten injured while attempting CrossFit, most injuries have been due to the following: improper form, being over confident about what you WANT to lift, and not properly warming up. That being said, when you actually look at the numbers–CrossFit is no more dangerous than other common sports such as Soccer, Football, and Cheerleading. The difference? No one tells a little girl dreaming to be a cheer leader, “Don’t do that, you’re GOING to get injured”. While yes, there definitely is a risk, as with most sports, this shouldn’t be a reason to never try it out for yourself. Alas, I would caution that people who have egos not try this sport– you’ll definitely leave with your tail between your legs as CrossFit is a humbling sport for us all.

Speaking of humbling…

3. LOOKING REALLY STUPID. ALL THE TIME.

Watching the CrossFit pros on YouTube and trying those same moves out for yourself is extremely humbling. For instance, when I first attempted the Wall Ball–it landed on my face. Needless to say, 10 pounds falling towards your face from the air is not a pleasant experience. To be honest, I probably did look pretty stupid initially. Why it’s okay? Every one looks stupid in one way or another at first. The both awesome and terrible thing about this sport is that it tackles every angle of fitness and takes a long time (or infinite time more accurately) to perfect the skills– unless your name is “Jesus Froning”, you’re not going to be good at everything, especially at first. However, part of the magic is the fact that it’s a consistent challenge, even for the pros. You’ll definitely never get bored trying to master skills because you’ll always be trying to beat your personal best.

4. THE LINGO.

HSPU? OHS? WTF? What do all these things mean? When I first looked at a WOD (and no, not a big lump of some thing) I thought–this whole CrossFit thing is another language in and of itself. Who’s got time for that? Well, over time it really does become second nature. And unlike Spanish, which I’ve taken for 7 years and STILL haven’t mastered, you quickly begin to learn the acronyms and to fear any thing that begins with HERO or sounds like a girl’s name (yes, we’re talking about you Fran…).

5. LOOKING LIKE A MAN.

When I first introduced the idea of CrossFit to family and friends, a large response was–“Good luck looking like a man…” But was morphing into the male physique really a result of CrossFit? Even now, as I’ve begun discussing the physiques you see in the ultimate of ultimates in CrossFit, game competitors… two things come to mind: A.) They don’t really look like men and B.) They put a TON of effort, supplements, and time into getting those physiques–it doesn’t happen as an after thought of getting into good shape by taking CrossFit classes, it happens as a result of specific dieting, training ~4 hours a day, and using specific supplements. Regardless, my woman crush is still Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and she’s definitely a wonderful example of being both incredibly strong/athletic and still feminine.

6.  NOT LOOKING ENOUGH LIKE A MAN

On the other end of the spectrum, when I first introduced the idea of CrossFit to my more meat head, body builder friends the first thing most of them said was along the lines of :“Good luck losing all of your gains… (gains = muscle)”.  On one hand I didn’t want to build TOO much muscle, but I also didn’t want to lose my strength. I wanted to somehow become the “magical unicorn” of fitness that didn’t get TOO bulky but DID continuously  increase in strength. Although I’m still trying to figure out how to manage that goal, with the Olympic lifts and focusing on the strength training portion of the work outs–I definitely didn’t lose strength. And muscle-wise? I gained a good 10-15 pounds in my first 4 months. Yes, I still fit into my clothes + 15 pounds.

7. SAYING GOODBYE TO MY NIKE APPAREL (AND OTHER BRANDS OUTSIDE OF REEBOK).

As you may already be well aware, REEBOK is the official sponsor of the CrossFit games, and while many do endorse and wear their products (they do have some pretty great lifters after all) no one will give you dirty looks for sporting other brands. In fact, in my experience–no one pays much attention to the brands your wearing at my gym. So all that Nike gear I’ve collected over the years? Totally okay. Mixing brands? No problem. Silly socks? Awesome. Appreciating all the brands? The best route to go. After all, Nike is making some CrossFitting shoes now… but I usually pick work out clothes based on what color scheme I’m into and the fit–simple as that.

8. SAYING GOODBYE TO FRUIT, CARBS, AND DAIRY

While Paleo is the main stream diet plan of many CrossFitters, it is not a CrossFit sin to NOT be Paleo. I tend to eat fairly healthy regardless–sticking to whole foods as much as possible, but saying goodbye to bananas and chocolate? Not gonna happen… Moderation is key, even the pros like Froning and Camille indulge in donuts, fries, and non-paleo fare. It’s all about finding out what works for you… and so if Paleo isn’t some thing sustainable (and don’t get me wrong–it really does great things for some people) then do what works for you. No strict dietary guidelines necessary.

 

Needless to say, I’m grateful I took the hurdles. And FEAR-wise? The only thing I’m afraid of now is not trying and giving it my all when I get to the gym.

 

 

The American diet: Insidious Mind-Body Damage

The modern American diet. One of those emotional, touchy, messy, endearing subjects.

While providing many with experiences of joy and (literally) drug-like reactions (Yes, sugar’s response in our brain mimics cocaine’s response), some of the modern day processed foods can cause diseases of both the mind and body.

You heard right, body AND mind. Our brains. Mental illness. It’s real.

I only emphasize that because while it’s easier to see the growing impacts on our physical health through increasing rates of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease–it’s also important to understand the deleterious impacts on our mental health as well (that which is not as tangible—yet.) Diet also impacts our levels of serotonin and a whole food diet & exercise has been one of the best (if not more so effective) treatments to depression/anxiety than medication (pharmaceutical companies would hate me for saying so–but, hey, my moral compass is more important than your pocket book).

Indeed, modern neuroscientists are constantly finding links between diet and behaviors, increased rates of depression/anxiety, and overall mental well being. Scientists are finally able to look at processes in the brain (versus just snap shots like in the 90’s/00’s) and in essence, entering a whole new world of understanding of our mind’s processes and systems. Yay!

Furthermore, what we put into our bodies impacts our aging process. Obese people have higher levels of DNA damage and less repair mechanisms than people who are slender. DNA damage is indicative of cancer, pre-mature aginig, etc. The repair processes require Magnesium to function well and unfortunately 45% of Americans don’t get the Magnesium they need (this is also what’s found in green, leafy plants).

Unfortunately, it gets worse. These traits can also be passed on to our kiddos due to epigenetics. Epigenetics turn genes on and off~ and guess what? They are regulated largely by diet, exercise, sleep, and stress. What does this mean? Diabetes might be passed on through our genetics.

The good news? You can reverse these effects through healthy diet and exercise.

So what dietary changes can people make? This is a complex question… every person’s dietary needs are unique but there are a few guidelines we know apply to most people. (Again, consult a professional/get a blood test to fully understand your personal needs).

Eat whole foods. As hippie-to earth, organic as possible. That means produce, local meats (raised humanely), and dairy products. Skip the diet foods. Skip ANY thing with ingredients in it you can’t bake at home. Seriously, that stuff could be just as terrible as the bacteria you find under your toilet, or worse.

It’s expensive but, so is insulin/medicine and losing your health, premature illness and doctor visits…just ask seniors taking 18 pills a day!

Take supplements for Magnesium (45% of Americans are deficient) and Vitamin D (70% of Americans are deficient) ~4000 IUD’s a day… Take your vitamins in general (the research has only shown some vitamins are bad once you already HAVE cancer because it can fuel the cancer, but as a preventative measure nothing better helps your healthy body function well).

Those newspaper articles on how Vitamins are bad for you? They’re made for ratings, not for accurate portrayals of scientific research. If you can, always have a critical eye for what you read in the paper until you actually decode the research they cite (you’ll be blown away at how much is misconstrued).

Okay–that’s all I have for today. There’s much more to understanding the mind-body interactions but in my efforts to be kind to your attention reserves, I’ll leave you with an awesome YouTube Video that I HIGHLY recommend which has inspired this article and elucidates WITH PICTURES how important this information is.

My very best,

J