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Burning Calories is N.E.A.T.


Before our daughter I’d never heard of the acronym N.E.A.T..

I was active.

I worked out.

Even working full-time I had hours at my disposal to do with what I pleased.

I hadn’t heard of the acronym and most likely would have scoffed at the concept had I stumbled upon it.

Exercise, in my mind, needed to be focused, sweaty and completed in stints of a minimum of thirty minutes at a time.

Flash forward a few years and I now live each day with a N.E.A.T. backdrop.

As a working mother, wife, sister, friend and volunteer I’ve learned the importance of seizing N.E.A.T.ness in any form I can.

I credit it for my ability to remain functionally fit with minimal time invested in traditional exercise.

I’m busy.  I travel for work.  I do what I can.  And I’m grateful I have N.E.A.T to help me take care of the rest.

Is your curiosity piqued?  Allow me to clarify what I’m talking about.

N.E.A.T. is defined as non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

Essentially, the acronym refers to energy expended during activity (fidgeting to shopping) that’s not specifically exercise.

I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say N.E.A.T. has been my fitness-savior.

It’s taught me my body really doesn’t know the difference between walking on a treadmill and pacing during a conference call.

It’s shown me the strength I gain through grocery hauling and dog–hoisting is pretty comparable to what I used to gain in the gym (I know. I was shocked, too.).

In addition, since sitting has been deemed the new smoking, the fact I’ve converted much of my sedentary time into movement could also lengthen my lifespan.

Sure in a perfect world Id have time to do all I need to and fit in traditional workouts, but these days that’s not happening.

Thankfully studies (and my experience) show taking advantage of N.E.A.T can burn up to 500 extra calories per day and, more importantly in my opinion, result in a fitter, stronger you.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to squeeze N.E.A.T. into my day.

    • Buy a pedometer.  I selected a basic, inexpensive basic model.  Something that only counted my steps.  Not only did I find the numbers motivating, I discovered the slight pressure of the pedometer on my waistband reminded me to get up and walk.  Phone calls and brainstorming sessions for work are all easily done in motion, too.


    • Isometric ab contractions Sometimes life dictates I sit still and work.  During those long stretches I find both activity and stress reduction through tightening and releasing my core.  I also have friends who swear isometric ab contraction is their secret to core strength and six pack abs.  Whether this is true or not is debatable, but I’ve definitely found it helps me remember to keep my core contracted throughout my day.


    • I lunge.  Everywhere.  I lunge across parking lots.  I lunge as I clean the house.  I lunge (we call it silly walking) at the park with my daughter.  You will never find me lunging as part of a formal workout (can’t stand them)—but when I’m a fitting-them-in machine.


    • I’m a N.E.A.T. cook.  I don’t love to spend time in the kitchen.  I’d rather be with the ones I love than separated preparing food for them.  It’s just who I am.  Now, when I grow impatient waiting for water to boil or salmon to poach, I N.E.A.T.  I turn on music and dance.  I do calf raises in place after I’ve retrieved the colander from the shelf.  The kitchen offers myriad ways to fit in fitness when we’re willing to get N.E.A.T.-creative.


    • I shift sedentary into active.  I love to watch recorded television.  Now, instead of skipping all the commercials, I’ll use a few for movement bursts.  Two minutes of planks?  4 sets of push-ups? A minute of jump rope or hula hooping? These all fit perfectly into commercial time.   I also drag friends along for the N.E.A.T. ride.  I love book groups.  I wish I possessed more motivation to walk outside.  The two mixed together (our walking book club) is a perfect N.E.A.T. combo for busy book lovers.


Whatever you choose to call it—-N.E.A.T., constant motion, viewing your day through the lens of movement— the result is burning daily calories in a manner that fits fitness into any schedule.

What sedentary daily activities could you turn into N.E.A.T.?

How are you already incorporating the idea of N.E.A.T. into your busy day?

Back to Basics Boot Camp


The end of August didn’t used to mean much to me.

When I lived on the East Coast, it indicated colder days ahead and a shift from summer’s simple foods to that of a heartier sort.

When I relocated to Texas, practically nothing changed in my life come fall.

Light, healthy eating remained since it’s hot pretty much year ‘round in Austin.

My routine—work or play—wasn’t altered with the advent of summer so there was never anything to return to.  And, with no little ones gearing up for school to start, July and September were entirely interchangeable.

Initially, even with the addition of our daughter, nothing in my world shifted with the arrival of fall…until she started school.

It was then I finally got it.

Only then did I grasp what friends had referred to when they lamented the mayhem of fall.

To my surprise the entire family was impacted by our daughter’s sweet, sweet summer freedom.

We stayed up late.

We still got up early (which may seem a positive as we kinda kept to our school-routine.  It was not. We were always very tired.).

We watched lots of movies.

We ate many less than healthy snacks during the aforementioned movie viewing.

We were super, summer time active and frolicked like the crazy people we are.  We climbed, swam, did gymnastics, hula-hooped, trampolined and generally moved all day long.

And the loose schedule of summer afforded us the time to do all of the above in the name of fun.

Now, as the start of school approaches, I find I’m equally sad and ready to get back to routine.

Unbeknownst to the other members of my family I’ve come up with an idea.

I’m launching a Back to Basics Boot-camp of sorts with regards to our food, sleep, and exercise routines.

Allow me to elaborate.

For my family the benefits of eating healthy extend far beyond how we look.  When we eat good, clean foods, we feel better, sleep more soundly and have far more energy.  Here it’s all about keeping the blood sugar levels balanced.  Our meals remained (pretty) okay throughout the summer, but I had the luxury of zipping to the grocery with the child right before making lunch or dinner.  As part of getting back to fundamentals, I’m committing to meal planning and advance preparation.

Exercise comes so naturally in the summer.  We have all day to move and great weather in which to do it! With fall and school comes homework and sitting.  I’m making the commitment to prioritize activity as much as possible even as she heads back to the classroom. We’ll be taking homework breaks and stretching.  I plan to take advantage of the lingering evening light for family walks after dinner.  I’m committing to leading by example and practicing what I may be tempted to preach.

It’s definitely time for a sleep boot camp here. We need to return to our old, school-time wind down routines that signal our bodies and brains it’s time to rest.  It’s taken effort, but we’ve discovered what morning and night habits work best for our family.  It’s time to return to basics with that, too, as routine sets us all up for success.

I know we will all miss the freedom in all facets of our lives that summer offers, but if nothing else we know there’s another one coming in ten months or so.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share there’s a small facet of our routine and framework to our days I’ve sort of missed.

And our eight year old? She’d never admit it, but I’d venture to guess she feels the same way, too.

  • Did you find—children or not—summertime derailed your slumber, movement, and food-plan?


Throwback Thursday

The original Swerve logo from 2001.

My grandmother said to me once, “As you get older, the years go by much faster.”  At the time all I could think is that the school year went by like molasses and the summers seemed to never be long enough.  Well, twenty-five years later, I now know exactly what she meant.  Where did the first half of 2014 go? Most of you are probably new to Swerve Sweetener, within the past couple of years or so.  You may not ……[Continue Reading]

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating. Intuitive eating. Either pair of words can be used to describe my (finger-quote) diet (unFQ) over the past twenty plus years. I eat when I’m hungry (there’s the intuitive). I pause, grow still, and ask my body what it’s craving (there’s the mindful and sometimes challenging piece in today’s cacophonous world.). I’m often asked how I became an intuitive eater.  While my personal process can be time consuming to explain, an illustration I frequently use is that of ……[Continue Reading]