Get Ready for Move-the-Needle Monday!
Are you ready for week two of your Dream Big challenge? Let’s get serious about thinking positive, lifting your body weight, and going vegan, starting now.
Welcome back for the second installment in our month-long quest to help you get stronger, healthier, and happier. You’ve already done the hardest part of this week’s challenge—you showed up! (If you’re new to this program, click here first to see what the buzz is all about.)
Often, getting to the starting block (er, getting out of bed … putting one foot in front of the other … saying “yes” to yourself) is the biggest obstacle of seeing your goals become a reality. Now that you’re here, this week is going to be a breeze.
But, if at any point you feel like giving up (because—hello—we’re all human), stop by Instagram and checkout the #DreamBigGetThere community for some instant inspiration. And if you’re feeling like a powerhouse, be an inspiration for someone else by sharing a selfie of your triceps extension form or a vegan swap you made this week. Keep moving that needle; we’re cheering you on!
Dream Big: Think Only Positive Thoughts for 24 Hours
Week 2: Master Mindfulness
The science: Mindfulness—focusing on the present and soaking in everything that’s happening, instead of letting your mind worry or wander—has been linked to tons of health benefits. Research suggests that practicing mindfulness may help improve stress management, reduce anxiety and depression, increase a person’s ability to relax, and boost both self-esteem and enthusiasm for life. Sound like the keys to a happier you? We think so.
Move-the-Needle Monday: This week is all about starting a mindfulness practice. Allison Chawla, a licensed social worker and clinical psychotherapist, intuitive counselor, and certified life coach in New York City, says it’s important for everyone to do this, but there isn’t one right way. “Meditation and mindfulness come in many forms,” Chawla says. Ultimately, you want to find a way to sit in silence so you can allow yourself to be more aware of your surroundings, your body, and your feelings. The more practiced you are at mindfulness, the better you’ll be at identifying those negative thoughts when they pop up—then flipping the script.
The plan: The secret sauce to reaping the most benefits of mindfulness is to do it regularly. This week try to sit in silence and be mindful at least once a day, even if it’s a short and sweet one or two minutes. You can work your way up to longer—10 or 15 minutes—when you get the hang of it. Even then, on certain days you may only need a minute to reconnect with yourself; other days you may feel like you could use some more time. Apps like Headspace, which offer guided meditations at varying lengths, are great for getting started and maintaining focus. The more practiced you are at it, the easier it’ll be to employ when you’re feeling especially overwhelmed and need to refocus your thoughts.
Top tip: When you have a hard time reigning in your thoughts, check in with your five senses, Chawla suggests. Find a quiet space to sit and observe exactly what you’re seeing in front of you, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. The senses are what put us in the moment, she explains. Focusing on each of them will bring your mind to the present and help you be more aware of your thoughts.
Dream Big: Lift Your Bodyweight
Week 2: Up the Ante
Here’s the science: OK, we’ll level with you: You’re probably going to feel very, very sore at some point this week. And that some point might even be a day or two after your workout. It’s called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it’s totally normal. It happens to even seasoned athletes as the body repairs the muscle fiber tears that happen when you max out your weight load. A study in Frontiers in Physiology found that the best ways to ease this kind of pain include massage, compression garments, and water immersion (hello, bath time!).
Move-the-Needle Monday: Here it is, ladies and gents, this is the first week you’ll be increasing your lifting weight. But don’t freak out! Instead, test out this mental trick from Jamie Costello, M.S.C., certified personal trainer, functional movement specialist, and vice president of sales and fitness for Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa in Miami. Just take a few minutes to visualize yourself doing the lift perfectly right before you start. “Imagine yourself being successful in lifting that weight,” says Costello. It may sounds simple, but “it can make enough of a difference that it’s worth trying!”
The plan: Repeat the moves from week one, aiming for an approximate 5% increase (give or take). Monday, Wednesday, and Friday perform three sets of each of these moves: bench press, chest fly, shoulder press (seated or standing), and triceps extension. For each set, select the weight that gets you to muscle failure (you can't do another rep) in 10 reps, then 6, then 3. On the weekend, try to get in a little active recovery with stretching and massage to help soothe aching muscles.
Top tip: Now that your muscles are getting used to the movements, it’s time to refine your training. To get the most strength gains, focus on the eccentric part of the movement, says Costello, meaning the part where you lower back to the starting position. “You might think you build all your strength in the concentric phase because that's what we keep track of—what you can push off your chest. But it's that eccentric phase—the lowering—that gets you stronger!” That means slowing down the movement of lowering the weight after you lift it. Think: Lift in one count, lower in three.
Dream Big: Go Vegan for a Week
Week 2: Time to Add to Breakfast, Too!
Here’s the science: Eggs, bacon, and sausage are breakfast mainstays and a staple of popular low-carb diets. But Amy Allen-Chabot, Ph.D., a registered dietician and professor of nutrition at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD, warns that a diet rich in animal products is also high in saturated fat, which can be harmful to your health. “Vegetarian diets have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This is important since cardiovascular disease is the number-one cause of death in the U.S.,” Allen-Chabot says.
Move-the Needle Monday: While you’re at the grocery store searching for vegan-friendly goods, shop the outer aisles for fresh produce, and if you do venture to the inner aisles to buy pre-packaged products, be sure to check the labels. Just because a product is labeled as “vegan” doesn’t mean it’s better for you. Pay close attention to the list of ingredients, since many frozen breakfast foods can be loaded with preservatives. But don’t fret! Preparing a fresh and healthy breakfast can be easy with just a few simple ingredients—and a little planning.
The plan: Looking for something other than boring cereal and toast? This protein and calcium-packed recipe takes just minutes to assemble and can be made the night before for a quick and healthy vegan breakfast:
Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
¼ cup of vegan Greek yogurt (such as Daiya’s Greek yogurt alternative)
1 cup oat milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Mix dry ingredients (oats, chia seeds, pie spice, and salt) together into a bowl.
Add wet ingredients (yogurt, milk, pumpkin, maple syrup, and vanilla) into the bowl and stir until well combined.
Pour the oat mixture into two individual serving containers, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge. Let cool and set in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
Top tip: Want a non-dairy alternative that actually tastes great in your morning coffee, tea, or breakfast cereal? If you like a nutty flavor, try almond or soy milk in your cuppa Joe or bowl of raisin bran. Prefer a plain taste? Opt for oat, rice, hemp, or unsweetened coconut milk.
And just like that, you've moved the needle and made it through week two of our May Dream Big Challenge. You might be a bit sore, and you might still have a hankering for bacon. But hopefully, you're also a bit more centered and less stressed, too. All in all, you deserve a pat on the back for committing to the program. Upward and onward ... week three, here we come!
Contributors: Amy Marturana Winderl, Beth Shapouri, Carmen Roberts, R.D.
Optimism and Life Span: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (2019.) “Optimism Is Associated With Exceptional Longevity in 2 Epidemiologic Cohorts of Men and Women.” https://www.pnas.org/content/116/37/18357
Mindfulness and Health: National Institutes of Health. (2012.) “Mindfulness Matters: Can Living in the Moment Improve Your Health?” https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2012/01/mindfulness-matters
Physical Activity and Happiness: Journal of Happiness Studies. (2018.) “A Systematic Review of the Relationship Between Physical Activity and Happiness.” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-018-9976-0
Optimism and Heart Health: American Journal of Cardiology. (2013.) “Effect of Positive Well-Being on Incidence of Symptomatic Coronary Artery Disease.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3788860/
Weights and Mood: JAMA Psychiatry. (2018.) “Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms: Meta-analysis and Meta-regression Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.” https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2680311
Help for Muscle Soreness: Frontiers in Physiology. (2018.) “An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5932411/
Neurological Muscle Connections: Frontiers in Physiology. (2017.) “Greater Neural Adaptations following High- vs. Low-Load Resistance Training. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.00331/full
Sleep After Exercise: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. (2020.) “Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Acute Skeletal Muscle Recovery after Exercise.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31469710/
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Weight Training and Cognitive Function: Journal of Applied Physiology. (2019.) “Resistance-Exercise Training Ameliorates LPS-Induced Cognitive Impairment Concurrent With Molecular Signaling Changes in the Rat Dentate Gyrus.” https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00249.2019
Plant Protein and Mortality Risk: Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine. (2020.) “Association Between Plant and Animal Protein Intake and Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality.” https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.119.012865
Plant-Based Diets and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Journal of the American Heart Association. (2019.) “Plant‐Based Diets Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All‐Cause Mortality in a General Population of Middle‐Aged Adults.” https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.119.012865
Vegan Diets and Health Outcomes: Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. (2017.) “Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies.” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2016.1138447
Vegan Diets and Type 2 Diabetes Risk: Nutrients. (2018.) “Insulin Resistance in Overweight Adults: A 16-Week Randomized Clinical Trial.” http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/2/189/htm
Red Meat Intake and Disease Risk: British Medical Journal. (2020.) “Red meat intake and risk of coronary heart disease among US men: prospective cohort study.” http://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4141
Weight Loss: Journal of the American College of Nutrition. (2021). “A Mediterranean Diet and Low-Fat Vegan Diet to Improve Body Weight and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors: A Randomized, Cross-over Trial.” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07315724.2020.1869625