My Heathy Eating, Japanese Reset

As mentioned in my post Tips For Healthier Eating And Weight Loss – Inspired By Japan I mentioned that I was very eager to have a reset with my own dietary habits. Generally I’m the only person who is aware that I’m puffier than normal, or holding onto slightly more weight than I should… But really, I’m the only one who matters in that equation, right? If I notice I’m not where I want to be and it makes me unhappy, then I know I have work to do. If I don’t do the work, I know exactly where that will land me emotionally – I’m not going to head that direction willingly.

So did my “reset” actually work?

Y E S!

Generally it takes a few weeks to reprogram ourselves into a new habit – a week in Japan wasn’t going to be enough, but it was a jumpstart that I knew I could look forward to. The Japanese don’t eat the way we do in America – I was counting on that! It isn’t that I’ve been through eating disorders or that I don’t think I can handle being around food establishments. I don’t have any fear or anxiety surrounding going out to eat either – most establishments have SOMEthing I’ll like (and in Japan, I knew they would.) I have a willpower the Spartans would have paid me for on top of it, so I’m not worried about seeing delicious items on the menu, splurging, and being disappointed with myself later. Rather it’s that I don’t enjoy being around the over-doing that goes on… At all.

It isn’t about a judgment, let me be clear. I don’t have any right (or desire) to try to guess as to why some people are morbidly overweight, or why someone eats well beyond when their body says “HALT!” It isn’t my place to judge, and there could be a million reasons why – it’s frankly NONE of my business. What disgusts me (and really, that’s the best word for it) is the over-stuffing, over-ordering, over-filling, over-indulging. 

As with everything else, to each their own for sure. What I’ve learned about myself is that I simply don’t want to be around that kind of splurging and binging. If I had to go into McDonalds, I’d take my food and go. You’ll never catch me on a cruise, for example – food is the focus and I am an eat-to-live kind of person. I LOVE to eat, don’t get me wrong, but my long-term goals are more of a priority than the short-term satisfaction. 

I don’t’ care about eating as it pertains anyone but myself – I am the only person / place / thing over which I have control AND, I’m the only person who’s my business! But that also means that pigouts are uncomfortable to be around because I don’t enjoy the over-doing when it comes to food (particularly here in the States.) When asked for nutritional advice, I always preface it by saying “what works for me, may not for someone else – our goals and bodies are different.”

So Japan…Japan was very welcome. The portions are WAY smaller. People don’t over-stuff themselves. People take time eating, and even buffets are healthy. You RARELY see anyone who’s overweight, let alone morbidly obese. Everyone – regardless of age – is WALKING. People are moving around all day, and eating healthily on top of it. Our surroundings matter and I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed that environment.

So, what did I learn? Which habits did I bring home?

I’ve made a few tweaks to my nutrition since I’ve been back, inspired by the change in routine:

1. I eat less at each sitting

I *could* eat more but I don’t serve myself more…because the extra isn’t necessary to feel full. Today I went back for a few more bites (a few times!) because I realized I needed more food and was, legitimately, hungry. But I ate my lunch, I waited. I had some water. And then I realized I needed to add.

2. I use smaller serving vessles

I’m using a bowl half or 2/3 the size of what I used when I left. Big difference! It allows me to fill it (looks like a lot!) but not overeat. I’d have the sensation of being full (before I went to Japan), so why was I forcing myself? No good reason! I’m not starving, and food is not in short supply. There’s more where it came from so I can chill out…

3. I use chopsticks

Yes, for every meal! Why? SLOWS ME DOWN! Seriously…there’s no need to shovel in food, and I can eat way too much way too fast if I’m not careful and paying attention.

4. I use mindfulness

I try to pay attention while I’m eating. Distraction can lead to stuffing myself more than I need to…and also delay my full signal because I’m not in tune. I try to be more aware of my food, and that I’m really enjoying it.

5. I don’t overdo

I don’t over-buy or over-order. I stock up a lot of frozen veggies because it saves me some trips (and keeps other food cold that I might buy while out and about.) But I don’t go crazy with things that I know I’ll just end up eating too much of – saves me the trouble of fighting urges (and losing those battles. Which…I will!)

6. I have lightened up on cruciferous veggies and go for free instead

Some vegetables can upset the stomach. Though I can tolerate a LOT more fiber than the average person (it’s been the bulk of my diet for over a decade – as in, four to eight pounds of veggies a day!) it can still be too much for me. Switching to lesser puffy-producing veggies has meant less stomach aches. I tend not to overeat green beans, snap peas, legumes, or greens as much as I do cauliflower so I’m also having a little less overall. 

What have I noticed with the reset?

  1. I’m feeling better overall!
  2. My stomach doesn’t hurt as much (WIN! I suffer from regular stomach aches)
  3. I’m not as puffy feeling or looking
  4. I probably lost a pound or two (or at least puffiness from too much food and fiber)
  5. I’m not starving. At all!
  6. I have plenty of energy
  7. I’ve been sleeping better overall
  8. I have less anxiety about having to eat right away because my body isn’t responding as poorly to not eating quickly enough (still happens, but not as horribly)

So yes, my ruse worked! BUT…a big part of it is sticking to the plan. I’m making sure I KEEP good habits because it’s easy to revert to poor ones.

My goal has always been to maintain a healthy, happy, strong body…and that hasn’t changed. My nutritional needs, however, have. I’m 40…not 20…so it’s important I listen to my body, and that I try to fuel it with the proper food…not to mention the proper QUANTITY of it. America doesn’t help us a ton there because it’s always about how much can you stuff in for how little money. That is a horrifying concept to me! Again, different things work for different people – because I know what I need, I make sure I’m not around what doesn’t support my goals, or whatever makes me feel uncomfortable. Nothing wrong with looking after ourselves – we do, at the end of the day, have to live with ourselves TRULY 24/7. We deserve to feel – and be – healthy. Period.

Tips For Healthier Eating and Weight Loss – Inspired By Japan

I recently got back from a trip to Japan and I couldn’t have had a more wonderful time. Of the many reasons I was excited to go (primarily to see friends and to train in my Martial Art), I knew that I would also have the opportunity to reset my eating habits…and I was really looking forward to that.

The truth is, I’m one of the healthiest eaters I know – it isn’t only about my wanting to achieve specific results (though that’s part of it), but also because my body is very finicky about what it needs and wants. For example, if I eat processed foods I actually feel ill – lethargic, puffy, stomach ache, the whole bit. Complex carbohydrates are fine but simple ones have the same negative effects. And then there’s those times where I wait too long (in excess of two or three hours) to eat – I get puffy, abdominal pain, headaches… It’s awful! I always do my best to manage it, and believe it’s my body expecting / needing food, but not having any.

Therefore…traveling for me can sometimes be anxiety-inducing because I’m concerned I’ll not feel as good as I do when I’m able to follow my at-home regime. I knew, however, that Japanese people eat very fresh foods and very well. I packed a plethora of snacks just in case (and remarkably didn’t need them all) but I knew I’d be able to find some healthy options (yes, even in spite of lots of noodles and tempura!)

If I eat “so well,” then why did I want a reset? I historically can eat massive portions…and there are several reasons that’s not the greatest idea. Giant portions, notorious (even – ugh! – celebrated in the US) can mean the following:

  • Missing Satiety Signals – Eating beyond the point of fullness causes us to lose touch with the neural reflex we are hard-wired to have (in other words, our “satiety signals”)
  • Excess Calories – As a result of missing our cue, we continue to eat which equates to a lot of extra calories our bodies don’t need
  • Reinforcing Bad Habits – We also, therefore, reinforce the habit of overeating
  • A Bigger Stomach – And overeating over an extended period (not just holidays, but longer-term habitually eating of too-large portions) actually can extend the stomach. BAD NEWS

Going to Japan was a welcome change – I knew that my schedule wouldn’t permit me to necessarily eat as frequently, or eat as large meals as I am accustomed to. I was THRILLED that would be the case because I felt like I need a kick in the butt to get me going.

After coming home…I feel like I’m in better shape. On top of that? My stomach didn’t hurt ONCE! I felt better in Japan that I do at home…and I feel better at home than anywhere else. For me, that’s miraculous. 

So what if you AREN’T taking a trip but you want to lose weight, or to reset your own less-than-healthy habits, you ask? Here are a few tips that can help you on the path, without you ending up starving…

1. UTENSILS CAN CHANGE THE GAME

Yes, seriously… Switching to chopsticks, a la the Japanese, will slow you (and your chompers!) down. If chopsticks feel like too much of a struggle, try a smaller utensil! Try using a much smaller fork or spoon and you will find that you are also forced to slow things down, allowing for the proper, full chewing of food as we are meant to do. You will also take less in each bite, which will ensure you can enjoy and taste what you are having…not just stuff your face and ingest mindlessly.

2. PICK YOUR DISH / BOWL / GLASS WISELY

As with smaller utensils, a smaller serving dish (bowl, plate, cup, what have you) can significantly help your cause. I typically use a large bowl…which always ends up with me needing to fill it to the brim. When I use a smaller bowl and fill that, I not only have the illusion of a lot of food, but I am eating less…which gives me the chance to get full, and not overstuff myself with extra calories.

3. GIVE YOURSELF A MINUTE

We often will “still feel hungry” after a meal. That’s great but it isn’t always an accurate assessment – our body needs a couple of minutes (20 is often suggested) to register our meal fully. If after that time you are still hungry, try a glass of water, wait a few more minutes, and then have a piece of fruit or a healthy (small) snack. No one ever NEEDED a caloric, unhealthy dessert, let’s be honest. There are healthy and delicious options out there to keep you on track (and of course, once in a while, it’s okay to indulge. We are talking about the larger picture and consistency here.)

4. LISTEN!

Listen to your body. When you take your time (the three points above can help you!) you are more apt to hear the “OKAY! WE’RE FULL! Don’t need more nutrients right now!” signal. STOP when you are feeling / hearing that alarm bell – you can always have more later on (leftovers are delicious! 🙂 ) And, if your out, you can always ask to take the rest home – forcing food down your gullet is never a good thing.

5. FOCUS ON THE GOAL AND BENEFITS – YOU WANT TO LOSE / MAINTAIN FOR A GREAT REASON

There are a ton of reasons why eating healthy is important, and why you should make the effort. It isn’t only about how we look – it’s about FEELING great about ourselves and internally. It’s about aging well and staving off unnecessary ailments that do not have to be associated with growing older.

It’s also about operating at a higher level and being able to not only function well, but optimally…at work, at home, in our extracurricular activities etc.. You deserve to feel great on every level! To deny ourselves that opportunity or to make excuses is a huge disservice to ourselves, and the body we have been given.

Having watched my almost-87-year-old Grandmaster demonstrate Martial Arts techniques this past week was inspiring and beyond – his grace, the fluidity and power in his movement, his accuracy… I want to be like that at 87…and so I take FULL responsibility of treating my body and mind as well as I can NOW, so I can get to that point too.

PS: My Grandmaster paints during the break in class. Sips his tea and keeps his mind and body active. AWESOME.

The American way of life when it comes to food is one I’m not ultra fond of. I was when I was about 12 and figure skating hours a week…I could do it then. But I have to accept the reality that I’m NOT that active, not that young, and therefore I don’t have that metabolism. That’s OKAY. It just means I have to approach eating a little bit differently – food is one of the fun aspects of life! We don’t have to be miserable or miss out at all. But it is important to recognize that the fuel we put in the tank matters…and that no one else is responsible for our health except us.

I loved having the opportunity to shift my habits a bit, and I’m working on the very tips I outlined here. We know ourselves better than anyone – how we feel, how our clothes fit, how we are doing overall. A doctor can certainly tell us, but I don’t want to wait to hear something bad from someone certified! I’d rather take the bull by the horns…

There’s inspiration everywhere – the Japanese are a culture of healthy bodies, and it’s noteworthy. A mediterranean approach is another wonderful way of life also…and that’s really the key here. It’s a WAY OF LIFE. There are some incredibly healthy cultures out there (Japanese is consistently among the top ten), so it’s worth taking a look. America is a phenomenal place to be for many reasons, but we aren’t as great when it comes to health…and a monstrous portion of that comes from what / when / how the population ingests food.

 

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10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry Is Horrible!)

Feeling hungry – or getting to the point of “hangry” – is terrible for everyone. There ARE ways – yes, really! – to maximize fullness and avoid the pitfalls of poor-choice snacking.  It does take some commitment, but it isn’t so difficult that it can’t be achieved (with minimal, if any, pain, I promise.)

I struggle with snacking too – I’ve always liked eating a lot of food, so I’ve learned some tricks to keep me on track, without the starving feeling of a “diet” (I don’t actually believe in the “D word” to begin with.)  The point is to set yourself up for success, not disaster.  Binges?  been there.

#1. . . H2O

Water is essential for SO many reasons, and I guarantee that most of us aren’t getting as much as we need. When you feel thirsty, it’s usually too late.  Incidentally, in effort to get the hydration it needs, sometimes you’re sent a “hungry signal” when in fact it’s the body and brain’s way of saying “need fluid asap!”

How to make it work: Always drink water before you eat.  You WILL get a stronger feeling of fullness.  In some cases, too much water at once might make you feel sick…so go easy and give your body a chance to adjust.  Sip your water first and you’ll likely notice you don’t need to eat that whole, huge portion.

#2. . . SLOW DOWN!

Eating too quickly is a surefire way to A.) eat more than you need and, B.) leave you feeling overly full.  Stomach aches are NEVER good! Slowing the pace can make a huge difference – you will feel that “fullness” when it’s time to stop.  The body has been designed to work like a highly-tuned machine – it knows before the brain does sometimes.  Trust it.

How to make it work: Take a bite and put your utensil down.  Sound basic? It is.  But try its because it helps.  Eat a little, put your fork down, and give yourself a chance to chew and enjoy the food.  

Feeling full!?

#3. . . Fruits and Veggies

Portions M A T T E R.  These nature-made goodies are easily found, not expensive, and are one of the best ways to add bulk to your meals (not to yourself!), while also adding a dose of H2o goodness and nutrients.  Veggies in particular are my go-to for making meals a lot BIGGER than they really are without adding a ton of calories (e.g. . .or to my waistline, which can happen when I’m not careful.  Thanks, meso-endo body type!)

How to make it work: Add an extra serving of steamed vegetables as a side for your meal, or add them to it (for example, soup or pasta) to make a larger, and more filling portion. Fresh fruits are also great (and a better choice than their deliciously dried counterparts) to add to things like yogurt, cereal, or even frozen yogurt for a treat.

#4. . . Distract yourself and stay mindful

Are you *really* hungry?  Or just bored?  I have a habit of wanting to eat when I’m not busy (working on the computer, watching something on tv etc.)  Bad news, because then I look for more food to snack on…

How to make it work: It’s okay to snack here and there but if you are not mindful of what you are doing, you’ll probably go overboard (it’s easy – portions aren’t really that big!) If you absolutely *must* snack while doing something else, portion it out and remind yourself to (#2) slow down. If you are simply eating because you are bored, find another way to distract yourself to get that “I’m not hungry but I want to eat” out of your mind.

#6. . . Pre-Portion

Having some options at the ready is always a great idea, especially when they are portioned out already.  You dont’ need to buy crappy snack packs, you can make your own (hummus with veggies, popcorn in portioned bags, fruit salad etc.)

How to make it work: Have some pre-portioned items in your pantry or fridge for when you need them.  Stay mindful and remember they are portioned for a reason.  If you savor what you are having, you don’t need to eat three portions of it.  Often we do that because it’s an oral fixation – the act of just munching – vs our body really needs the sustenance.  I’m super guilty of this one.

#7. . .  Don’t BUY it!

This is a go-to for me also.  Sometimes I know I really want something…but if I buy it, I’m not going to be able to control the amount I have.  So…I don’t buy it.  It isn’t worth it to me to then be kicking myself in the butt – if I don’t have it at home, I can’t eat it.  I CAN, however, buy other options.

How to make it work: Don’t get sh*t you know you can’t handle!  I’m serious! You know your weaknesses.  Do buy things you can have instead that you won’t beat yourself up over.  You deserve to feel great ALL around.

#8. . . Get moving!

Exercise is a nice distraction technique (see #4.) It’s great for  you, but it also gets your metabolism moving along as well.

How to make it work: Maybe you don’t have a gym membership, or you are having a tough time motivating…try doing a few little things during commercials when you are watching your favorite show, or in between stirs while you’re cooking dinner (e.g. pushups, jumping jacks, setups etc.) Baby steps are OKAY.  In fact, they are MORE than okay.  It might help get your mind off the need to munch, and give your furnace a boost while you’re at it.

#9. . .  Chopsticks

Yep.  Chopsticks are not as easy to eat with and they force you to follow rule #2 whether you want to or not.  Sneaky, yes.  Genius, also yes.

How to make it work: Pick up a pair and start pinching!  If you have trouble, there are modified ones that are joint at the top (not as good, but still slower than a fork or spoon.)

#10. . . (Worse comes to worse, and ps, I’m NOT a dentist!) Have some peppermint, or try a piece of gum

I am NOT recommending chewing gum as much as I do (it is sugar-free, but I’m sure it’s not the best habit.) There are plenty of healthy ways to avoid overeating but sometimes a quick piece of gum can keep me from eating something I don’t really want or need.  A dose of peppermint tea, or a mint can also help. Again, not trying to suggest this is should be a default – I’m slapping my own hands given that I love my Bubblemint.  But…if all else fails, it can help in a pinch.

How to make it work: Have some peppermint tea, suck on a mint, or even have a piece of sugar-free gum.  As a last resort, this can actually help.  Some folks recommend smelling fragrant oils – you can try that too, though the physical act of chewing, or having the taste on your tongue, might have a stronger result.

Once again, not a doc, and not a dietician..but these are a few tricks that might help when the munchies hit.  As someone who LOVES volume (e.g. LOTS of food) I can say honestly that these tricks CAN work.

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Setting Up The Day

There’s something to be said for having breakfast in the morning.  It doesn’t have to be sitting on your night table and devoured the moment your lids go up…but having a meal in the morning as you get going can set you up for a much better day.

My system is a little quirky – if I wake up early, before my usual (and more natural) time, I have to eat pronto.  Not doing so lands me in a puffy and uncomfortable way – no one can explain it, it just is what it is.  Same thing happens if I wait too long between meals or snacks! Frustrating but…I know it happens, so I’m able to be proactive and head it off!  If I wake up at my usual time, a cup of coffee and a little time before eating works best.  Everyone is different and there is nothing wrong with the way your morning routine is if it works for you!

I don’t vary a ton with my food in general – I could list my staples on one hand.  So breakfast is either eggs and vegetables, or eggs and fruit.  I don’t manage to get bored, remarkably (spices and sometimes even salsa or hot sauce can make a nice change!)

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What I find, though, is that having a decent amount of protein, paired with high fiber and high water content foods sets me up to have more energy for the not just the morning, but the day.  It kicks starts the metabolic burning process, and it often keeps me from devouring everything in sight later (that happens – for sure – when I don’t.)  

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Whatever mix of macronutrients works for you so that you feel your best, have the most energy, and feel satisfied, is what you should do!  That might be toast with peanut butter and some fruit, or a big greek yogurt smoothie… Whatever it is, though, squeeze it in if you can.  Breakfast is hugely important and will give you the support you need internally to start the day right. 

 

Healthy Breakfast When Dining Out

This really is my usual cast of characters, so it’s fair to say that MOST of my dining-out breakfast options look a lot like this (which, for me, is a good thing!) 🙂  

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There are always a lot of great options, though – you never have to have full fat milk in your cereal, or even milk at all, for example – most places offer skim (lots of protein, less calories and fat), or soy or almond options.  You also can ask for greek yogurt in most establishments, in place of plain (less protein than greek, and often more sugar.)

You can absolutely ask for any condiments on the side, lest your dish come out drowning in something more caloric than you need.  Fresh fruit and a tall glass of water are also great as they give some volume and a feeling of fullness…without being bad for you!

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For me, the combination of healthy fats, protein, fiber and water content helps keep me satisfied a good while – I’m the kind of person who eats a LOT during the day, so consider that I probably need to eat more often than most.  In this case, the fact that I am satisfied for a while indicates that the food items are doing their job nicely…withOUT being bad for me!

More Deliciousness

Appreciating Family and Fresh Food

I had the wonderful fortune to spend time with my parents, an uncle, and my sisters this past weekend.  My fiancé had not been to the island – ACK, to be clear – so it was a special treat to share a childhood haunt…and many fond memories and traditions…with him.

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A gorgeous ship in the harbor (prompting pirate accents when we saw it!)

We were there only two days and my heart really sank to leave – the combination of vivid memories from my youth, paired with having us all in one place (my brother and sister-in-law were missed!) plucked at my Empathetic heartstrings!  It is always jarring to swap realities for me, and always has been – not to the point I can’t do it, just that it takes a little adjusting (incidentally, it appears this is a common problem for folks – google it and see!) I truly, however, appreciated every moment while I was there.

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Harvested, fresh clams…er, the shells!

One of our traditions is going out to the harbor just before low tide, and taking advantage of the low water levels to snag fresh clams (in season, and within the regulations, obviously.)  I love that the restrictions are in place, lest individuals harvest with gay abandon and upset the ecosystem for their own gain.

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Fresh clams

Once we have a good bushel (or more!) we haul them back in and make two things – clams casino and clam sauce for pasta.  

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Clams casino

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Martelli pasta (the BEST!) with clam sauce

As a clean eater, I actually don’t have either dish (though, in my defense, casino contains cheese, which I – and my stomach – definitely cannot have!)  It is more important to me personally to maintain and achieve my goals, so I’m okay with abstaining.  I always have enough of my own goodies to not feel hungry (my fiance made stir fry chicken and vegetables! 🙂 and I know I will feel better later.

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Fresh candy from the local farm!

That said, I do enjoy the preparation, having all of us together…AND a few steamed clams in olive oil and green tabasco (my uncle’s favorite concoction!)  The most important part of the meal preparation, and devouring, is the time with my loved ones.

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When I reflected on our many summers together, my heart just glowed – sometimes Life goes  too quickly.  Or maybe we are young and aren’t thinking about time marching on as vehemently as it does… But since we all are at a stage where we DO have control of mindfulness, make sure to take the time to stay present (something I work on daily.)  Cherish the moments you have – they make for a mind-blowing tapestry of memories and love.

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❤ 

 

Humor (and Tips) – It’s HOT Out

The heat is definitely rising these days in the Northern Hemisphere – While past years have run higher, it is well above what the body is accustomed to regulating on it’s own.  It is therefore vital to stay mindful when the weather turns the dial up – lack of preparation can end (quite) poorly.

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I’ve sort of been feeling more lethargic, but I’m outrightly blaming it on the oppressive heat.  Still, I’ve toned down my response – I used to be more melodramatic about it…

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Now I just do my best to deal.  I won’t be caught with a frown on my face anymore, but I will be equipped with a giant bottle of water…especially when I’m training or working out.  

The Holy-Heat! Checklist:

  • H20 – Stay hydrated!  Everything from your core temperature, your heart, brain, and body function, to your skin will thank you.  So, SO important, and not to be overlooked.
  • Sunscreen – Wear it when you are out.  Reapply often.  I guarantee you aren’t wearing enough (neither am I! *slap on hand*)
  • Salt – This depends on the individual and personal conditions but…if you are an athlete in particular, you need to replenish your sodium and overall electrolytes.  Water matters, but be careful not to over dilute.

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Being stuck indoors during summer is a drag, especially when it’s “nice” out – but if the temp does creep up to “ungodly” maybe take a shade break too. Overheating is never a good idea, especially if you can prevent it.  And…you can!

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