8-Week Health Challenge to Drop Pounds and Beat Stress

There are so many different reasons why we struggle with our weight– family, heartbreak, hectic work schedule, a love for ice cream with chocolate sauce– but they all revolve around the same thing: Stress. Tense emotions make it difficult to feel like yourself, let alone lose weight.

By making simple changes to your lifestyle one step at a time, you can escape the vicious cycle of stress and start reshaping yourself for the better immediately. Weight, stress and sex are all affected by one another, so this plan addresses all three at once.

Start by writing down everything that you eat – it will surprise you to see it on paper. This plan will work for you if taking baby steps is more your speed. If you’re interested in giving these weekly challenges a shot, you could start at the beginning or go in your own preferred order. You could also build each week on top of the next or simply tackle one weekly challenge at a time.

Check out our eight week-long “healthy living and stress reducing” challenge...Description: http://stg.marcuspopfood.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif

Week One: Make smart swaps – Finding healthier alternatives to fattening foods is less of an uphill battle than it seems. Instead of potato chips, munch on organic kale chips that can be bought in stores or even made at home. Love tuna or egg salad sandwiches? Mix either with Wildwood garlic aioli instead of mayo and use Ezekiel bread or organic English muffins for bread.

Eliminate energy drinks and sodas that are high in sugar and limit beverages to coffee, tea, water, milk and only one cup of natural juice during the week. Drinks this week can only be naturally sweetened with a little honey or 100 percent pure maple syrup. This also means no artificial sweeteners in your coffee. Wine, preferably red, is allowed in moderation — an average of one drink per day. Drink plenty of water and if you are craving some juice, squeeze a little fresh lemon or lime into your water.

Week Two: Add two fruits and/or vegetables to each meal – Eat a minimum of two different fruits or vegetables with every breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal. Hopefully all that extra produce will bump some of the highly-processed food off your plate. Be sure to buy organic produce since it is more nutritious (due to the fact it is grown in a more nutritious soil), and you won’t be consuming chemical pesticides and fertilizers along with it.

Week Three: Participate in 30 minutes of exercise five days a week – The best way to look and feel good is to exercise regularly. Thirty minutes of exercise is a realistic way to lose weight and fit in fitness on a regular basis. There are so many ways you can do body-weight moves anywhere and fast-paced cardio intervals. This way of working out is simplistic, but has a powerful side effect: Checking off multiple workouts a week instills confidence and makes exercise part of your lifestyle, which is the secret to lasting weight loss. After a week of hitting your goals, you will feel amazing. Try this one for two weeks, and you will feel unstoppable. Whether you have 10 pounds or 100 pounds to shed, this challenge will get you started.

Week Four: Give yourself non-food rewards when you’ve reached certain goals – Keep your thighs on the prize. When you set new goals and have reached them, give yourself non-food rewards like a 30-minute massage, a new nail polish or a good book.

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. Most people review items for information such as fat grams, calorie count and sugar content. While this is important, 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. Dancing, for example, uses numerous brain activities 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, be artistic every day 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. 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 parents 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 – 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, pears, asparagus, walnuts, and watermelon.

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.

With these easy-to follow tips, you’ll be on your way for a healthier and less stressful lifestyle.

What are some ways you stay stress-free?