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My Healthy Journey: Spring Cleaning Your Life

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

This last year has been a long and busy one, and I’m going to be pretty honest when I say I’m exhausted and not feeling very healthy. The good news is that while I feel that way, it’s not entirely true.

I started working a lot of overtime last May, and it didn’t end until December. And even when I stopped working extra, I was still very busy when I was on the clock.

More than 46% of Americans’ workplace stress is caused by their workload, so I know I’m not alone in putting stress on myself to get things done. And when your levels of this kind of stress get too high, you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other disorders, according to The American Institute of Stress.

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My Healthy Journey: New Year, New You?

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

This year has been long and tiring, and for the last few weeks, I’ve been left wondering what I could say about my goals for 2016. Honestly, I hadn’t been thinking about goals for the new year, I was too busy trying to get through the day.

Unlike last year, I don’t have a long list of the things I plan to work on. Instead, it will be a few important things that just keep coming to the top of my mind when I think about my life.

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My Healthy Journey: Finding Time for Sleep

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

It’s been a busy year for my team at Health Alliance, so I hope you’ve been enjoying Nicole’s Chasing Health series while I’ve been too busy to post!

When life gets busy and stress takes over, the first thing that always goes for me is sleep. I’ve never been very good at getting a lot of it, even though it’s one of my favorite things in the world, especially when stress sets in.

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My Healthy Journey: Finding Healthier Alternatives

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

I love a good steak as much as the next meat-eater, but changing to a healthier diet has also meant eating more vegetables than meat. Sometimes, that also means it’s a great idea to try eating vegetarian meals.

Rally has a challenge for just this, called Meatless Days. They ask you to “Skip meat for a day and explore tasty vegetarian protein sources such as tofu, beans, lentils, quinoa, and nuts. It’s good for you, easier on the budget, and eco-friendly too.”

When I went on vacation to Nashville, I’d tried eggplant for the first time. We’d gotten a free appetizer that was eggplant marinated in tomato sauce and other goodness. It was incredibly delicious.

Ever since, I’ve been wanting to learn to cook eggplant myself. This week, inspired by the eggplant recipes I ran on social media earlier in the month, and trying an official meatless day, I made Eggplant Parmesan for the first time.

Continue reading “My Healthy Journey: Finding Healthier Alternatives”

My Healthy Journey: Time to Sweat

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

I’ve changed my diet, organized my life, and made healthier choices, so the last and biggest thing on the list is exercise.

I don’t like to exercise, as I think a lot of us don’t. I’m competitive, so I liked playing sports as a kid, but as an adult, exercising by myself is boring and hard work. If I had a gym membership and could read on a treadmill, it might be different. But as it is, it’s hard to make myself do it.

But if I can (for the most part) give up candy, completely abandon soda, and stop drinking coffee for a month, I can handle anything!

I started by doing a muscle-strengthening yoga routine every day, which was a great way to start for me. It wasn’t too intense, it was calming, and it really helped me regain some flexibility and balance I’d lost over the years.

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My Healthy Journey: Finally Settled

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

I finally have something to sit on in my apartment! After 3 months, I’m mostly settled in.

Moving requires a lot of organization, and as I told you before, this was a rushed and unorganized move, which is probably exactly why it’s taken me this long to get settled.

You may not realize how much being organized (or disorganized) affects your life and even your health.

One study showed that you’re more likely to suffer from stress and depression if your house is cluttered and full of unfinished projects. (This was definitely my house for the last 3 months.) Long-term stress is tied to heart disease, digestive problems, poor sleep, obesity, and cancer.

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My Healthy Journey: Me Time

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

I feel like I have spent the last month drastically overhauling my physical life. And I have.

While I’m giving you advice on how to succeed at Rally challenges, I’m kind of doing them all at the same time. For the first time since high school, I’m exercising every day. And for the first time ever, I have radically overhauled my diet. Like I’ve said the past few weeks, I’ve been cooking at home every day and am eating more whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and I’ve cut out caffeine, processed foods and sugars.

So although there are still plenty of food mission posts to come, so you can use my new experiences to help you succeed, in my head, these are a little bit like old news. Been there, conquered that.

But as you can probably guess, now that I’ve settled into a rhythm, this isn’t actually what I spend all day thinking about. As a matter of fact, not focusing on this stuff is exactly how I got so unhealthy.

Now that healthy eating is more of a habit for me, though, I’d like to talk about something that feels more like real life to me. You know, the stuff that occupies my mind all day.

Continue reading “My Healthy Journey: Me Time”

My Healthy Journey: Flexible Living

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

As I told you last week, I’ve been making some radical changes.

I’ve eliminated soda, coffee, alcohol, and pretty much all processed foods. (I don’t think the coffee is going to be a permanent change after this month. I’m warning you now.)

I’ve also changed my diet in pretty big ways.

But that’s not all! I’m not participating in any challenges from work, but I’m still working out every day. That’s right everyone! I haven’t been this active for 10 years! So the truth is, even if it’s been a decade, there are ways to start getting active.

That’s not to say I started running 5 miles every morning. I’ve actually started doing yoga in the comfort of my own home. The gradual build is important to me.

I know I’m not the only one in the world who doesn’t want to put her struggle on display, but there are ways to start without witnesses.

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My Healthy Journey: Eating Mindfully with Rally

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

Eating Mindfully

I’ve recently started a new diet (which you’ve seen some pictures of if you follow me on Instagram). I am doing a cleanse of sorts with it, and I will eventually be taking some supplements, but the point is really about developing a better relationship with food.

That is what the eating mindfully challenge from Rally, our wellness tool, is really all about. It asks you to stop and think before you eat that morning donut from the break room.

So, the rules of what I’m doing food-wise are pretty simple. I’m eating breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, dinner, and I can have another evening snack if I need it. (As a person who was eating maybe two meals a day and can’t really have dessert, I pretty much never need it.)

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My Healthy Journey: Reading and Writing for Your Health

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

I’ve said it before on here, but I’ve always loved reading, and I’m not always very good at making time for it. I read a lot of news but not that many actual books anymore. Funny, because I don’t have any furniture in my apartment, besides the books on books.

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My Healthy Journey: Rally and My Fitness Binder

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

My move is complete! While I have no furniture outside my bedroom (partly from a very trying, calorie-burning, failed attempt to get a couch through my front door) all of my things and my dog have successfully made the transition.

A new kitchen and plenty of living room space for yoga (because falling down is a lot easier in a room with no furniture) have made it time to refocus on my healthy journey.

Right now, I’m working on small steps. I’ve bought some running shoes, and now that the weather has finally gotten up out of sub-arctic temperatures, it’s time to take action.

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My Healthy Journey: Progress and Prep for the Holidays

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

It’s that time of year when food is unavoidable. We’re just a week away from Thanksgiving, and a month away from Christmas. And while I have plenty of resolutions I could line up for the new year, there are a lot of things I’m trying to focus on to stay on a healthy track for the holidays.

It’s starting with healthier recipes. I love to cook, and I love the Thanksgiving classics, so finding ways to lighten those is definitely key. Luckily for me (and for you), finding those recipes on Pinterest is part of my job description. Check out our Holidays board and stay tuned on social media and on this blog all this month and in December for holiday food ideas. They can help make both lighter meals and menu planning easier.

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My Healthy Journey: Mixing Procrastination and Halloween

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

So, I know I’ve mentioned before now that Halloween candy is hard for me to resist, but I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned that Halloween is also my favorite holiday.

I did theater as a kid, and dressing up and doing fun makeup is my favorite part, but I love lots of things about Halloween.

I have enough candy in the house all month long to really damage a person’s insides. (There are candy dishes in multiple rooms of the house, and bags of it stashed in other multiple rooms.) I love caramel apples. I love Curtis Orchard, for you Champaign area residents, and their cider and donuts. I love the creepy and cute decorations. I love horror movies, even the bad ones.  I love seeing little kids in costume* all over the neighborhood, and I’m not normally a kid-person either, so that’s saying something. (I have an irrational fear that my arms will suddenly give out, and I will drop and kill any child I am holding.)

*If you too love seeing babies in costumes, you have to look at this blog post with our social media recap from last week. Have you ever seen a happier and cuter Chucky?

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My Healthy Journey: New Missions

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

I have finished a mission people!

I finished the food tracking mission on Monday by completing 4 weeks of it!  Then it gave me the option to continue, and, while I still haven’t found a food tracking app I love yet, I decided keeping it up was probably a good idea.

My next goal with this is to start actually counting calories. As I suspected it would, food tracking shows what an inconsistent eater I am. Hopefully, if I can find a good way to start counting, I can actually see how bad my diet is for me.

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My Healthy Journey: Return to Focus

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

Today, our new websites launched! (Feel free to marvel at their beauty at HealthAlliance.org  and Medicare.HealthAlliance.org, you know, if you’re into awesome health insurance websites.) Which means I will have time to worry about being healthy again!

Despite the craze that has been the last nine days, (which has felt like one really looonnng week,) I have actually done okay with my goals this week.

My teeth have definitely reduced the amount I’m eating, but I have been successfully food-tracking. Eatly, the app I used to help last week, was really not my favorite. You upload a picture of your food, and then other people rank its health to give you a rating of your food. It also tells you how healthy you ate last week in relation to other users. I only uploaded four meals, and it told me that I ate less healthy than 63% of users. To be fair, for three of the things I uploaded, I deserved that. But overall from looking at other people’s photos, it is really a place to upload pictures that say “Look at how healthy I’m being!” Which, who really needs?

So this week I will be trying an app called MyPlate Calorie Tracker, from Livestrong. It helps you keep track of how healthy your diet actually is.

Continue reading “My Healthy Journey: Return to Focus”

My Healthy Journey: Missteps

So far, my healthy journey isn’t going that well. Sometimes, life feels so busy that it gets in the way, and that has been the last week for me. On the web team, this is literally our busiest, craziest time of year. Combine that with simple, but necessary errands, and suddenly I’m not home until 7 o’clock at night once in the last week. By the time I am (sometimes) done with cooking, eating, and catching up on our social media, I am almost falling into bed.

This means, that the arm challenge halted in its tracks, and there was no post-dinner dancing to be had. Yes, I know, measly effort.

But I did track my food! I started with pictures, but by Friday had forgotten entirely, so instead, I will just list them for last week.

Tuesday:
Cup of coffee with vanilla creamer
Cherry Nutri-Grain Bar
Plate of green beans and potatoes with ham leftovers
Applesauce cup with cinnamon
Turkey and swiss sandwich on wheat with tortilla chips
Glass of red wine
One deviled-egg half
A Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, a small Laffy Taffy and one of those Halloween caramel-apple suckers
Half a microwave package of kettle corn popcorn

Wednesday:
Cup of coffee with vanilla creamer
Lemon Herb Chicken Piccata frozen meal
Drumstick ice cream cone
Can of cherry Coke
Ham and pineapple frozen pizza
One Redd’s apple ale
A Reese’s Peanut Butter cup and a small Laffy Taffy
The other half of the microwave popcorn

Thursday:
Cup of coffee with vanilla creamer
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Bowl of Kashi oat flakes and blueberry clusters
Homemade chicken stir-fry with edamame, carrots, red pepper, pineapple and scrambled egg over rice and sesame peanut noodle combo.
Oven-baked pineapple and cream cheese wontons with soy sesame dipping sauce
One Redd’s apple ale

Friday:
Black Dog pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato fries
Glass of Pepsi
Leftover stir-fry
One Redd’s apple ale

Saturday:
Cup of coffee with vanilla creamer
Some candy (I wasn’t keeping track)
A can of Coke
Chips and salsa
S’mores graham cracker bar
One mojito
Bowl of cornflakes

Sunday:
Cup of coffee with vanilla creamer
Glass of orange-mango juice
Two over-easy eggs, two pieces of bacon, two frozen waffles with syrup
Can of cherry Coke
Peanut butter cup, Tootsie pop and two small Laffy Taffy
Chips and salsa and sour cream
Grilled cheese sandwich with one piece of leftover bacon

As you can see, balanced eating is not my strong point. And I swing wildly from eating a lot on Tuesday to eating very little other days.

But it is a new week and I am determined to do better! This next week, I’m going to try an app called Eatly for your iPhone (it does cost $1.99,) that allows you take pictures of your food and get them rated by health. I will also be keeping a list though, because I’m sure there’s no point in taking a picture of a Coke.

I also hope you hadn’t all started and were waiting desperately for more of the arm challenge, since I am just now giving you day 3 and 4, but that means you have had plenty of time to think about it and get on board!

For Day 3 for both tracks, you rest.

For Day 4 on the beginner’s track, you will do:

12 Bicep Curls and Overhead Tricep Extensions, and 10 Lateral Shoulder Raises, Front Shoulder Raises, Bent Over Rows, Shoulder Presses, and Push-Ups.

For Day 4 on the advanced track, you will do:

14 Bicep Curls, Overhead Tricep Extensions, Lateral Shoulder Raises, Front Shoulder Raises, Bent Over Rows, and Shoulder Presses, and 12 Push-Ups.

Good luck! And don’t beat yourself up when you get off to a rough start, there’s always a new week or day. That’s what I’m trying to tell myself at least. Check back on Wednesday for more arm challenge (I promise!)

My Healthy Journey: Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

We’re diving back into Rally this week, and I’m picking my missions. But first, an overview of some of the things that you can do once you’ve registered on Rally.

Once you’ve taken your health assessment and are in Rally, there are four major categories to explore.

The first is missions. Missions are little challenges meant to help you make healthier life choices. There are really amazing options on here, and they’re still making more. Based on your assessment, some are recommended for you specifically, and then there’s a whole list of other ones you can explore.

Continue reading “My Healthy Journey: Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…”

My Healthy Journey: New Beginnings

This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

Hi blogosphere!

My name is Allison Shields, and I started working for Health Alliance as the web copywriter in July. That means that I work on our social media, this blog, and our websites.

I turn 25 this month, and I’m probably pretty unhealthy. I worked at Starbucks before coming here, so I have a pretty good caffeine addiction. I don’t eat regular meals, and one of my favorite snacks is still candy. I love to cook, but I don’t do it nearly often enough. I regularly skip meals because of time constraints and to keep from putting on weight instead of changing my eating habits.

Continue reading “My Healthy Journey: New Beginnings”

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