8-Week Health Challenge To Drop Pounds and Beat Stress, Part II

By: Michele Wolfson

If you tuned in yesterday, you would've seen that we started an 8-week health challenge to help you drop those extra pounds and beat stress. Click here for Part I of the 8-week health challenge. Below is Part II of our challenge, with advice for weeks 5-8 of tips to help you lose weight, reduce stress, and live and overall healthier life.

Read on to see how you can live healthier...

Week Five: Avoid processed foods - This means nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label. Read the ingredients label before buying anything. I have been a vegetarian for years, so I am accustomed to reading the ingredients in everything to make sure the food is something I can eat. Most people review items for information such as fat grams, calorie count and sugar content. While this is important to some, the best indicator of how highly processed a food is can actually be found in the list of ingredients. If what you are reading includes a lot of unfamiliar, unpronounceable items, you may want to reconsider before buying.

Week Six: Sharpen your mind games - Make a mental fitness plan to boost memory, amp creativity, and fine-tune focus. Exercise your intelligence with fun activities that also grow some gray matter, according to some top brain doctors. Dancing, for example, uses a bunch of brain systems including planning, coordination, and judgment. Meditation has been shown to affect parts of the brain associated with learning and memory. Other good ideas to bulk up brainpower are to learn a musical instrument, do yoga, take college-level advance courses, take a cooking class, learn to juggle, be artistic everyday and take on a complex skill, such as painting, play chess, or study a foreign language.

Week Seven: Stop eating when you feel full - Practicing portion control is easier said than done, but it is necessary and it works. I KNOW how challenging this rule can be. I will go shopping at Whole Foods and say "NO" to all of the unhealthy choices, but then I get to the register and I see bars of chocolate and I can't help myself and I grab 4 or 5. Also, my bill comes to $15 just for my purchases at the food bar where I pile up all of the food into a box and proceed to eat my way through 2 lbs. of deliciousness.

Super model, Marisa Miller tells Women's Health Magazine that one of her stay-slim strategies for practicing portion control is to eat naked. Sounds kooky, but she may have a point: "Eating smart is all about having awareness of your body. The most obvious way to do that is by seeing it. So when you're trying to lose weight, spend more time wearing less. I don't think I could eat an entire plate of nachos naked- could you?"

It is not only important to focus on what we are eating, but also how much we are eating. Ignore what your momma or your dad told you when you were a kid- don't clean your plate and instead listen to your internal cues and stop eating when you feel full.

Week Eight: Try two new whole foods that you've never eaten before - For the first seven weeks, we have asked you to give up things like fast-food, soda, and artificial sweeteners even in your cup of Joe.  In this pledge, you get to ADD something to your diet instead of taking something away. A whole food is something that has one ingredient and is not refined. The following food choices are nutrient dense and have been scientifically proven to fill you up, shrink your appetite, rev up your sex life, or help you drop pounds:

  •  Artichokes- A great choice if you are bored of a more typical leafy green and one just has 60 calories and all of the fiber that they contain will help you consume fewer calories during the rest of your meal. Therefore, they make a great appetizer.
  • Pears- An apple a day isn't the only thing that keeps the doctor away- a pear a day is a good idea too. Pears have high levels of pectin, which is known to promote weight loss. My favorite way to enjoy a pear is poached as a healthy alternative for dessert.
  • Asparagus- Studies have found that this vegetable buffers against the harmful affects of stress and is loaded with folate, a B vitamin essential. Steam some spears and add to salads or stir-fries. They are also tasty baked.
  • Walnuts- The healthy fats in these wonder nuts can also tame some of the craziest stress, so get crackin'! This is because they contain alphalinolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that has been proven to reduce stress and memory loss.
  • Watermelon- This juicy favorite could put your sex life back on the menu. It has unusually high levels of an amino acid called citrulline, which your body uses to pump out another amino acid, arginine, that's related to vascular health. It has been linked to increased libido according to research from the University of Hawaii.

This is by no means a complete list, but just something to get you started. If you've had all of these foods, you may want to try quinoa, lentils, bok choy, spaghetti squash, chili peppers, saffron, goji berries, or Brussels sprouts. During the challenge it does not matter how you eat these foods...they can be raw, cooked, or even ordered at a restaurant. You simply need to try at least two new whole foods by the end of the week and that is it! SO EASY!

Take our eight-week challenge and let us know if you feel amazing inside and out!

Photo: Tom Mooring

Michele Wolfson is a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute and is passionate about all areas of food, from writing about it, to photographing, growing, cooking, and consuming it. A vegetarian since she was seven years old, Michele knows the ins and outs of enjoying a healthy vegetarian lifestyle in Manhattan, which she writes about for Examiner.com as its Manhattan Vegetarian Examiner.

For more stories and tips from Michele, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)