It’s Time for Move-the-Needle Monday!

Are you ready for week two of your Dream Big challenge? Let’s get serious about drinking water, unplugging devices, and eating like an athlete.

Yay! You’re back! If you started one of the July challenges last week and you’re ready for more, you’ve come to the right place. If this is your first time here…welcome! You’re amongst family. Your first step is to click here to get a refresher.

But really, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been hanging with us for the last few months, or if this is your very first time stepping up to challenge yourself—we give you a standing ovation. It’s easy to stay in our comfort zones, but when we make the decision to do something harder or outside the box, that’s when real change happens.

This week, we want you to put your all into our chosen challenge and we’ll be right there with you. (Need proof? Check out everyone doing challenges with you on Instagram using #DreamBigGetThere). To help, follow along with the plans below that aim to keep you committed to the big picture while helping you break it down to bite-size chunks. Let’s go!

Dream Big: Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day

glasses of water

Week 2: Drink 4 Glasses of Water a Day

The science: Let’s talk dehydration, shall we? Studies have shown that losing just 1% to 2% of your bodyweight without replacing fluids makes it hard to think straight and remember things. Even worse: A 4% fluid deficit causes headaches, irritability, and sleepiness (we’ve all been there). And getting good hydration practices in place now can help protect us as we age. A recent article published in the journal Nutrients showed that according to one survey, over 65% of American adults ages 51 to 70 do not meet hydration criteria. The survey also indicated that in this age group, “underhydration was significantly associated with increased prevalence of obesity, high waist circumference, insulin resistance, diabetes, low HDL, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome.” And the analysis revealed a significant decrease in survival, within three to six years, for those people in this age group with a pre-existing chronic health condition who did not meet the hydration criteria, and were underhydrated, specifically. Scary, we know, but remember, we’re working on getting better-hydrated this month.

Move-the-Needle Monday: Your body has a few good mechanisms in place for telling you how much fluid it needs to stay healthy. Thirst is number one. (One caveat is that the thirst trigger doesn’t always work reliably, say, if you’re sick, working out heavily, and for special populations, such as elderly people and babies.) Another hydration indicator is your pee, so it’s a good idea to check the toilet every now and then after you go. If what you see is a pale lemonade color, you’re good to go. If it’s dark or has a strong odor, you need to fill up your glass. Our bodies are kind of amazing, aren’t they?

The plan: Good news is, we’re already planning to double our water intake this week to meet our month-end goal of eight glasses a day. Four glasses, people. Four glasses a day is what we’re going for this week. Or if you’re measuring with a water bottle, that’s about 40 ounces.

Top tip: Don’t like the taste of water? Tiffany Ricci, a Billings, MT-based registered dietitian nutritionist and co-owner of Fueling Life Nutrition suggests these workarounds: Use a filter pitcher to eliminate any off tastes you get from your tap. Add a wedge of lime or lemon or a sprig of mint and store this tasty concoction in an urn in the fridge for quick refilling. And if you must, Ricci says, a little added no-calorie flavoring is OK if it means getting more fluids in your body.

Dream Big: Unplug for a Full Weekend

phone off

Week 2: Set Boundaries With Your Device

The science: Many of us gravitate toward our devices and start scrolling on autopilot during any free moment—or even not-so-free moments, like when we’re out to dinner with a spouse or friend. The result? A lack of mindfulness, a.k.a. the practice of nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. Research shows that being mindful improves overall wellbeing. For example, one study in Behavior Therapy found that mindfulness can help people tolerate feelings of distress. But tech use can get in the way of this practice by pulling us out of the present moment.

“We reach for our devices, often without thinking, because of habituated behavior. This is often a learned trait, which means it can also be unlearned,” explains Karen Veintimilla, a licensed mental health counselor with Humantold, a therapy practice in New York City. “We must learn to sit with the discomfort of boredom, to sit with the discomfort of detoxing from the repetitive dopamine hits of likes and retweets, and ultimately be OK with not having access to entertainment 24/7.” This week, we’re taking back control by setting some firm limits on when and how we use our devices.

Move-the-Needle Monday: Boundaries: It’s a mental health buzzword, for good reason. Setting the right ones and sticking to them can seriously improve your well-being. And boundaries aren’t just for relationships—you can set boundaries with your devices and social media use, too. Setting thoughtful limits on your tech use can help you work your way toward unplugging for longer periods so you can be truly present in your real life.

The plan: There are plenty of ways to set healthy boundaries with your device. Not sure where to start? Take your cues from week 1: What did you notice about your tech habits that you want to change? See if you can home in on those areas.

Here are some examples of boundaries you can set with your devices this week:

  • No screens during mealtimes. We know it’s tempting to multitask, but this week, make it a goal to put down your phone and keep the TV off while you eat.

  • Leave your phone in another room. Many of us always have our phones glued to our hands or in our pockets, but is that really necessary? Try leaving it in the other room unless you need to text or call someone.

  • Ditch the devices before bed. Scrolling your Instagram in bed at night is doing no favors for your sleep quality. Leave the devices on the nightstand and don’t touch them for at least half an hour before bed.

  • Adjust your settings. Most devices have settings that can help you have healthy boundaries with technology, such as apps that limit use of social media or other activities, settings to turn off notifications or put your phone on silent, and more. You can also try putting particularly addicting apps (like social media ones) in a separate folder on your phone screen that takes an extra tap to get to.

Top tip: Remember those screen time apps we talked about? Those can become even more handy this week. “Many tech companies have developed a function for downtime where no notifications come in, which you can utilize to help establish and hold the boundaries for yourself,” says Veintimilla. For example, the iPhone Screen Time app has a feature called “Downtime” where you can set regular times every day when your phone limits the functions you can access and mutes any notifications or calls.

Dream Big: Eat Like a Pro Athlete

eating meat

Week 2: Add More Protein (Just Don’t Overdo It)

The science: Protein is a key nutrient that athletes need more of since it helps repair and strengthen muscle tissue after activity. Research shows that elite athletes need up to twice the amount of protein than someone who doesn’t exercise. Amy Goldsmith, a registered dietitian, sports nutritionist, and owner of Kindred Nutrition and Wellness in Frederick, MD, advises her athletes to consume 1.5g to 2g of protein for every kilogram of body weight, depending on the type of athletic activity. (To figure out your weight in kilograms, divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2.) “For a 150-pound woman, this would be approximately 102 to 136 grams each day,” she says. This is equivalent to about 18 ounces of meat or cheese, 15 glasses of milk, or 18 eggs each day. Sounds like a lot of protein—but, remember, elite athletes work it all off, and so will you with an increased load of activity this month.

Move-the-Needle Monday: You can reach your protein goals with proper meal planning—and by choosing the right types of protein. The American College of Sports Medicine advises that, while animal-based proteins (including meat and dairy products) are ideal because they are better absorbed by the body, you can still meet your protein goals with plant-based sources of protein by consuming a variety of foods (like nuts, beans, veggies, and whole grains) to ensure that your body is getting all of the essential amino acids it requires for muscle-building and recovery.

The plan: Look for foods where you can get the biggest bang for your protein buck. A glass of milk has 8g of protein. A 4-oz. chicken breast has 28g. A cup of Greek yogurt has 14g. An egg white has 7g, and a cup of dried beans has 16g. If you’re eating three meals and three snacks and your goal is 120g of protein each day, that means you’ll need to eat an average of 20g of protein every time you eat to meet your daily goal. Falling short? Consider adding a scoop of protein powder to your milk or eating a protein bar for one of your snacks to give you a needed boost. Looking for a vegan option? Try one of NFL pro Tom Brady’s plant-based protein supplements. Timing of protein intake also plays a role. Consuming high-quality protein within two hours after exercise can help enhance muscle repair and growth.

Top tips: “Many protein recommendations you find on the internet from non-licensed providers are often far higher than your actual needs,” Goldsmith warns. Why is this important? Because too much protein isn’t a good thing, either. “As with any macronutrient, if you overeat protein, it will be stored as fat, which will counteract the goal of building muscle,” Goldsmith explains. So like Goldilocks, watch out for the too-much and too-little categories, and zero in on just right.

Contributors: Danielle Gamiz, Lara DeSanto, Carmen Roberts, R.D.