Tuesday, December 21

Surviving the Holidays - Part 3

The holiday season has been absolutely nuts, but I have friends here to help!  Vicky, my lovely Body Attack instructor, is guest blogging for us today!  Vicky had her own weight loss journey that keeps all of us Body Attackers truly inspired.  She's there every Monday keeping me motivated and determined.
The holiday season is upon us and, along with the delight of decorating, shopping and parties, comes stress and bad habits.  How do we survive without having that huge regret in January?
First of all, stress! There is nothing better to help beat the stress than a good workout. I know it’s dark, wet and cold.  But taking the time a few times a week to head to the gym, getting a dose of Endorphins, and running around will really help manage the stress and help, of course, keep control of those calories.
As for food, this is a very tough time for us all.  We are running about, grabbing anything we can or attending Holiday parties and dinners. So a few tips that may help are:
1) Drink a large glass of water before mealtimes or snacks.  This will help with the feeling of fullness and especially when wanting to snack.  It really determines whether it’s food you need or not just hydrating.
2) When plating up a meal, try to think of this: put a protein no bigger than the palm of your hand on your plate, along with either one fistful of carbs like potatoes or squash or 2 fistfuls of complex carbs such as leafy greens.  Add in 1 to 2 thumb-sized amounts of good fats (not saturated) such as olive oil or most nuts.  Easy to remember and helps portion control.
3) Log your food.  I use DotFit.com, but even just writing down a list each day of all the items you eat WILL make you think twice before eating them.  It is proven—those who log their food each day are much more likely to achieve weight loss than those who don’t.
4) Find a workout buddy!  We all need a little push every now and again.  Sometimes it is hard to find the motivation, so find a friend eager to lose weight, get fit or generally stay active.  And make each other accountable.  Tell them you will meet them every Monday night at the gym for example, or lunchtime walk or jog date.
I hope some of these things will help you to start the New Year with a healthy mind and body. This is your life so grab it with both hands and LIVE IT, strongly!

Friday, December 10

Surviving the Holidays – Part 2

Avoiding holiday weight gain means more than just watching what you eat.   There are a lot of other factors that can affect how your body holds on to fat cells during the holiday season.
Stress – The holiday season can be crazy stressful.  Even if it’s a season you enjoy, we’re traveling, seeing family, or just out of our normal routine.  When you are stressed out, your body responds to that stress physically and emotionally.  Our brains often stimulate us to ease these kinds of stress through food.  Make sure to take time for yourself or set aside time specifically for relaxing.  When we’re visiting family, my husband—a chronic introvert—wakes up in the morning but doesn’t immediately join everyone.  He takes about 30 to 60 minutes to read or play a game on his DS (making him much more enjoyable later on!).
Sleep – Some people get to sleep in a lot during the holidays.  These are usually the people who are not in charge of cooking.  And if you have children, I doubt you’re sleeping a minute past 7am on Christmas day.  We’ve discussed previously what a lack of sleep does to your chemical balance.  On top of the chemical reactions, it’s quite hard to make good food decisions when you’re battling fatigue as well.  Spending time with family is important, but make sure to keep your health a top priority.
Activity – Keeping active during the holidays can seem challenging, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be!  Visit with your siblings during a walk around the block.  Or challenge family to some Wii or Kinect games.  Grab some boys and go play football.  I know I’m planning a girls’ day out with my mother, sister and someday-sister-in-law that will begin with a step class and end with some shopping!
Drink Water – This suggestion might surprise you, but this is an important one for me.  Even after over a year of being active and improving my health, I still have the hardest time getting my body to interpret my thirst.  I still misread my thirst as hunger and end up eating when I don’t need to.  Not only will drinking plenty of water help keep you hydrated, but it’s a great way to help fend off cravings!
Do you have any other tips that have worked for you?

Monday, December 6

The Diet Doesn’t Matter

When I use the word “diet,” I mean the food and beverages I eat daily.  However, when most people hear the word “diet,” they think of a set of restrictive rules around what you eat daily with the goal of losing weight.  I am not on a diet, but I discuss my diet regularly on this blog.
Still with me?
I watched an interview with this guy who purposefully built junk food into his daily diet, and managed to lose 15 pounds.  This is totally worth the watch!  He’s a nutritionist who wanted to start a debate around health, weight loss and how the kind of food we eat really affects our bodies.  He ate junk food, but only ate 1800 calories (keeping his physical activity the same).  As it turned out, he lost 15 pounds; his bad cholesterol went down and good cholesterol went up; his blood sugar level also went down.
“What’s this have to do with the holidays?” you ask.
We’re in the middle of the time of year where there is nothing but junk food or high caloric foods as far as the eye can see.   Comfort food and desserts and drinks!   The point is—if you’re really determined to not gain any weight over the holidays—you can still eat all of the foods you love.  If you’re watching your calories, you can literally eat your Christmas dinner and lose weight.  Just because you’re eating calorically dense foods, it doesn’t mean you will gain weight.
Now, you’re definitely not going to be able to eat much of those foods.  Twinkie Diet Guy did not sit down with a platter of Twinkies for every meal.  He probably got like one.  But I think we convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do about gaining weight through the holidays.  Our culture tells us that it’s normal, it’s expected.  But it’s not.  You are not helpless nor a victim to holiday weight gain.
Do you find yourself slipping into this mentality?  How do you think it affects your decisions?  How do you pull yourself out of that thinking?

Friday, December 3

Surviving the Holidays - Part 1

We’re starting off our December series on surviving the holidays and temptation with a few tips and tricks!  These are strategies I use, or my friends use, or suggestions I’ve received from people.
Eat Your Veggies!  Even if you’re not tracking anything you’re eating, counting calories, or using any other strategies—if you’re eating eight servings of vegetables in your day, you won’t have as much room for other junk.  It’s easy during the holidays to find vegetables smothered in fat and sugar, but there are plenty of good recopies that can keep vegetables calorically simple.  If you’re loading up on low cal healthy foods, you’ll be less hungry which makes resisting temptation much easier.
Eat Right Part Time!  My counselor had recommended during my Christmas vacation last year to commit to eating at least two meals each day well.  If I knew I was doing brunch with the family, then commit to eating a small but healthy lunch and dinner.  This always made me feel pretty good!  Even if I was feeling a little guilty over the one meal, I could think “at least I did well on the other two!”
Enjoy the Good Stuff!  My friend Katie reminded me of a great philosophy I used to use daily.  If you’re staring at a bowl of chips, it’s easy to tell yourself “I can have these any time.  If want chips next week, I could go buy them.”  If you’re going to indulge, aim for foods that you can’t have that often (like Katie’s homemade sugar cookies!).  It makes passing up on some treats easier.
Have a Plan!  You all know I’m a planner.  Even if you get to a party and suddenly realize your plan flew out the window, you at least started off as well as you possibly could.  And you always run the chance that your plan will actually work!  Lately, I’ve found myself assuming my plans will fall through, so it ends up being a little self-fulfilling prophecy.  I need to start letting my plans work the way that they should, but not feeling too guilty when they do fall through.
How do you survive temptation?  How do you arm yourself to avoid overeating or overcoming temptations?

Monday, November 29

Three and a Half Weeks

Ho boy, Thanksgiving is over!  I had great intentions of posting regularly though the holiday, but Seattle was hit with a crazy snow storm (yes, it probably wasn’t even an inch of snow) and then vacation just sounded too good.  But here I am again, and not too worse for the wear.
Since this is actually my first holiday season since losing 95 pounds, it’s been a time of learning!  I haven’t quite known what to expect of both my decisions and reactions to food this season.  I started off Halloween with a plan, but I lost track of the plan quickly.  There were literally moments when I had food in my hand and didn’t know where it came from.  It’s not that the food leaped into my mouth of its own accord, but more that I would be chewing something delicious and realize “I never made the choice to eat that.”  It was like my brain was on auto pilot (with what I know of how brain chemistry and food works, I can understand how it happens).  I wasn’t making decisions—whether bad or good—to eat or not eat food.  I was just going on instinct.  And my instincts notoriously cannot be trusted.
So, what’s my strategy?  There are three and a half weeks until Christmas, and I’ll be in weight-lost mode during that time.  I’m several pounds over my ceiling weight—that number that is supposed to be my “stop in your tracks and do a U turn” weight.  I’m determined to at least get back into my normal weight range before Christmas, and I think that’s doable.  However, I’m going to need to come up with some solid strategies and plans for Christmas.  I’ll be traveling on top of all the holiday traditions.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll have tips and strategies on surviving the holidays (as well as hopefully a few guest bloggers).  In the meantime, any tips you want to share?  What’s worked for you?  What hasn’t worked?

Wednesday, November 17

The Distraction Box

So we’re back to discussing cravings!  I read the greatest idea this week—it’s called a Distraction Box:
Make yourself a "distraction box" in which you put lists of activities that are highly distracting to you (e.g., friends to call or e-mail, Web sites to visit, computer games you like to play, chores that need to be done) and objects you can use to distract yourself (a word puzzle book, a favorite DVD or CD -- if they're distracting enough -- a catalog, etc.) For women, an excellent addition to the box is a bottle of nail polish. By the time your nails dry, your craving will be gone (full article here, but the rest of it isn’t that good).
I loved this idea!  I’m totally making myself a box tonight, and I’m making a list of things I plan on putting inside (yes, this is what I’m doing at work):
·         One of those books on my shelf that I’m always meaning to start reading.
·         My notebook where I work on my writing.
·         My To Do List (a few chores as well as errands)
·         Card making supplies (I’m a crafty kind of gal and I love rubber stamping)
My list was good, but this is definitely a box that’s really only useful at home.  What about work?  That’s mostly where my cravings happen.  I can’t really have a box of distractions for work.  So I’m creating a Word doc  to keep on my computer at work:
·         List of my favorite and inspirational blogs (these are usually quick reads and very encouraging)
·         List of my favorite workout songs (when I listen to my work out music, I find all food cravings disappear to make room for my craving for a good work out)
·         The people at work and on my instant messenger that I like to talk with (conversation is always a distraction for me)
·         A Before photo of myself (I love fat pictures!  They’re so inspiring!)
What do you think?  What would you put in your box?  Any other good ideas for work?  That’s my hot zone, so I need distractions a plenty sometimes!

Monday, November 15

The necessities!

In my quest to find delicious AND low-calorie foods, I’ve found a couple foods that I absolutely could not live without:
Sara Lee’s 45 Calories & Delightful White Bread – I’m telling you, they must make this stuff with fairy dust.  Each slice is literally half the calories of a normal slice of bread.  At 45 calories per slice, skip that high fiber bread (that’s normally three times the calories) and just eat some more broccoli.  My husband—pickier than the pickiest five-year-old—loves this stuff.  It tastes great toasted or cold.  Sara Lee even makes a Honey Wheat version.
Full Flavor Gluten Free Cheese Sauce – Don’t let the gluten free label fool you; this stuff is fantastic.  I’ve only been able to find it at Whole Foods so far.  The entire packet (about a cup of cheese sauce) is about 60 calories!  And it’s actual cheese—cheeses are the first ingredients listed.  My favorite is to make up some broccoli and whole wheat pasta, then smother it with this stuff.  (Just note: the packaging looks generic, I swear.  Like there’s no logo or anything.  Just look for green and white generic packaging.)
Progresso Light Chicken Noodle – Actually, any of the Progresso Light soups are impressively light on calories but not on flavor.  (Just note: “Light” is not the same thing as “Low Sodium!”)  The Chicken Noodle—my favorite—is only 140 calories for the entire can.  I throw some extra chicken in for additional protein, and I’m good to go for hours.  With as little calories as it is, I can even have some crackers with my soup!
Isernio’s Italian Chicken Sausages – Not only do these sausages taste great (by that I mean they do not taste like chicken sausages), but they’re only 100 calories and 3 grams of fat for a big fat ol’ sausage!  Most chicken sausages have the same amount of fat as beef sausages, so you usually lose the benefit of eating chicken.  I’ll throw these on a little slice of bread with some mustard or slice them up with some sautéed veggies, and I have an amazing lunch.
Any secret foods you’ve found?  Low cal or low fat, but still with great taste?

Friday, November 12

How to Pick a Good One!

A little while back, we talked about how most people don’t get near the servings of vegetables they need in a day.  And most people don’t eat veggies not because they don’t want to, but because they just don’t buy them often.  Many of us are intimidated by the produce section and unsure of how to select good vegetables.
I have some less common veggies below, and good descriptions on how to buy good ones:
Avacados – These big berries (yes, avocados are classified as berries!) were a challenge for me when I moved to the west coast.  You don’t want the rind to look bright green—that means it’s not ripe yet.  Pick an avocado that doesn’t look too dark, and lightly squeeze it.  If it dents just by you picking it up, it’s over ripe.  But if it dents slightly when you squeeze, it’s just perfect.
Asparagus – Most people just grab a bundle of asparagus without realizing fresh asparagus should have a couple very specific qualities.  Good asparagus will be bright green and firm.  If you bend the top, you should be afraid of breaking the stalk (it definitely should not bend without breaking).  Thicker asparagus is better for grilling, but look at the bottom of stalks: thick asparagus can often be purple (and tough).
Winter Squashes – This one is new for me; I’ve actually never cooked a butternut squash.  But I want to this year!  So I hear: the stem needs to be dry and corky.  Rough barnacles and even orange patches on green squashes are fine.  You want your squashes to be squashy, but not squishy—look for bruises or soft patches, and the skin should be firm.
Turnips – I haven’t had turnips since I was a kid, but I’ve decided I want to try cooking them on my own (they’re really good!).  Good turnips come with their leafy greens still attached.  The bulb on the bottom (reminiscent of an overgrown radish) should be white at the bottom and slightly purple on top.  The smaller they are, the sweeter they are.
Are there any veggies that took a while for you to figure out how to buy them well?  Any veggies you want to know about?

Wednesday, November 10

A Little Motivation

I got to speak with some lovely ladies last night (shout out to my 20/20 ladies!).  We had a great time talking about all the good, the bad, and the ugly about weight loss and weight maintenance.  We even discussed which plastic surgeons are the best to help with “the ugly!”
I was thrilled with the opportunity to share everything I’ve learned—and everything I am still learning!
One of the stories I shared seemed to hit home with many of us last night, and I wanted to share with Blog Land!  It was a moment that I found extremely motivating when I was coming toward the end of my weight loss.  It’s a great perspective on those moments when you make not-so-great decisions or those mornings you get up, step on the scale, and want to freak out over the number you see.
I was in my Body Attack class (hells yeah, Monday nights at the Redmond Gold’s!).  It was toward the end of class so I’m sweating my butt off, and I’m pushing myself hard.  Our normal instructor often challenges us to consider why we’re truly there: “Are you here to get healthy?  To get fit?  Do you just want a great butt?” she’ll yell to us when we must look like we need some motivation.  Of course my snarky brain was all, “I’m here to work off that cupcake I decided to eat at lunch today!”  But then my brain kept going, “I’m killing the calories that I decided to eat today…  And not calories that I ate over 10 years of unhealthy eating.
It was such a revolutionary thought to me!  I was working off the decisions I made that day.  My past decisions and their consequences were gone!  Every day was a choice: I could choose to do nothing about the decisions I make, or I could choose to drag my butt to Body Attack and pay up!  It was like a huge weight lifted from me (pun intended!); I felt like people who struggle with financial debt must feel when they’re in the black for the first time.
So when you’re beating yourself up for a slip up or for that extra couple pounds on the scale, remember that it’s not the end of your world.  This is not the biggest catastrophe that could happen to you!  Pick yourself up, pin point where you went wrong, and fix it.  It’s in your power to change your own life.

Monday, November 8

Grocery Stores Getting Wise

One more NPR link for you today!  It’s a fascinating article on how grocery stores and markets are employing the same techniques they use to sell junk food to begin increasing sales of produce and health foods.
Grocery stores have been losing money for years on produce.  Produce has a very limited shelf life.  If you don’t buy produce in that time, it just gets thrown away and the grocery store simply loses the money.  But just moving produce to a better part of the store isn’t getting people to buy it.  When I walk through the door of my Safeway, there are bins of oranges and apples right in front of me as I step over the threshold.  But it’s usually not enough to make me stop and buy.
Markets are actually putting money into displays and lighting that not only position produce and health foods in a way that guarantees our attention, but they’re making these foods look better too.  They’re employing staff to cut and prepare produce and recipes (which gets tasty scents into the air), and creating signage to cue our brains into reaching for these foods (effective marketing).
Could you imagine walking through your produce section and have a similar experience to your walk through the bakery?  How fantastic would it be to hear a mother say, “I can’t take my kids into the produce isle or all I hear for the next hour is their begging for fruit!”  As nice as that world would be, it’s unlikely to happen (since all the junk food we eat triggers chemical processes in our brains that veggies and fruit can never trigger).  But a produce section with an experience is  a great start!
Have you noticed any changes in your grocery store?  If you haven’t, how do you help yourself work against all the marketing and position around junk food?  I have to breathe through my mouth when I walk through the bakery section, otherwise I’ll buy doughnuts—do you have any tricks of your own?

Talk about Timing!

Just a short post today before the normally scheduled program!  I was listening to NPR this morning when I heard an article entitled “Stepping up Exercise Could Help Beat the Cold Virus.”  Remember my post on the exact same topic?  Looks like my message is going national!  ;)  Take a moment to listen todayit's a good article.

Friday, November 5

Those Morning People…

I am not one of those people who exercise in the morning.  I know there are a lot of people out there who love getting up at a ridiculous hour of the morning and beginning their day with a good sweat.  Well, I was one of those people this morning.  Do.  Not.  Like.
I feel my first foray into morning workout land did not go well for one good reason.  My nutritionist once told me, “You don’t need to eat before a workout, but it’s up to you if you feel it helps or hinders your body when you do work out.”  I had always thought this was a broad, sweeping statement that applied to all situations.  Sometimes I eat before I workout; sometimes I don’t.
Apparently, this statement does not apply to 6am workouts.  When you haven’t eaten for over eight hours, you need to eat before a workout.  It was so weird literally not having the energy this morning to move!  I was on my normal machine, doing my normal routine.  But I could not force my legs to move!  My brain was all, “Let’s go!”  And my legs were all, “We’re trying!”
Then I got home and I felt all gross and ravenous.  It’s hours later and I still feel like I haven’t recovered.  Bleh.
Ok, kids.  What’s the moral of this story?  Morning workouts are very different from evening workouts.  Are you a morning person?  I’d love to know what your routine is—how you get the most out of it!  What do you eat?  What kind of workout do you do: cardio, strength?  How long do you work out?  This is new territory for me, but I think I need to keep at it.  There are some days when an evening workout just isn’t happening, and I hate skipping the gym altogether.

Wednesday, November 3

Arming Yourself against Temptation

If I’m going to make it the next 3 weeks, I’m going to need a serious arsenal to deal with temptation.  I’ll tell you, I grab a coffee most mornings at the café in my building at work, and they serve the most delightful Chocolate Chip Espresso Coffee Cake.  Yeah.  I’ve got temptation staring me in the face.
So how do you deal with cravings and temptations when they’re knocking down your door?  In a previous post, I listed out a few fantastic strategies for dealing with cravings.  But honestly, you can never have too many tools in your toolbox for denying temptation.
Drink lots of water.  When I know I need to walk past the office candy bowl, I’ll drink an entire glass of water before I do.  By the time I get over there, my brain is like, “Please, don’t eat anything!  I’m going to explode!”  Granted, it’s only a short-term fix, but it guarantees you get your eight glasses each day.
Recall your last meal.  There was a British study done where women were asked to write a detailed description of what they ate for lunch several hours into the afternoon.  These ladies consumed one third fewer calories later in the day.  You might be like me and already recording most everything you eat.  But are you really thinking about it?  When you’re really evaluating what you’ve eaten, apparently it makes us more aware of our choices.
Meditation.  We’ve already talked numerous times about how most cravings are simply your brain releasing chemicals the affect the food you seek.  When that process is engaged, the most effective way to interrupt it is to get your brain working on another task.  If you remove yourself from your environment for a moment and put all your mental energy into one train of thought, often the craving will disappear.  “But I can’t just get away from work to meditate,” you say!  I’ve done meditation in the bathroom for a few minutes before, and it works wonders!
Give in.  I can hear your collective gasps!  There are a few times—not many for me, but more for some people—when you can exercise moderation and satisfy a craving with a very small portion.  When the Halloween candy started appearing in my office, I was able to let myself have one bite sized Snickers and not feel deprived.  My downfall occurred when later on I didn’t stop at one.  Some people can handle this strategy—and you know if you’re “some people” or not.
How do you handle your cravings?  Any good strategies?  How do you face temptation down and win?

Monday, November 1

I Seem to Have Lost the Band Wagon

The past week—alright, fine—the past couple of weeks have been my first significant weight gain since losing close to 100 pounds.  I’d like to blame the holiday specifically engineered to make us eat.  Oh wait, that could describe all American holidays.  You know, the holiday that’s all about eating candy.  Oh wait, that really only narrows the field by like one or two holidays.  Ok, I’d like to blame Halloween, but I can really only blame myself (ok, and maybe dopamine and opioids, but that really was an entirely different post).
This weekend, I was feeling so far away from the band wagon that no one on the band wagon would really be able to see what I was eating—so I ate a little of everything.  Let me tell you: everything was stinkin’ delicious.  I also now feel like a five-year-old who was allowed to eat whatever they wanted and now I feel completely ill.  I wish I could bottle this feeling and whip it out every time I’m about to over indulge.
Ok.  So here we are.  Post Halloween and counting down three and a half weeks until Thanksgiving.  My husband and I are taking an amazing vacation during Thanksgiving and I really don’t want to have to count calories.  So I need to track down the band wagon asap and get my butt back on it.
“What’s the game plan?” you ask.  The game plan is to make a game plan!  I’m planning out my meals again.  I also think I’ll be giving myself a few limits like: no eating any food at work or on the weekend that I don’t plan for.  I find this helps keep me in context when there’s temptation sitting around.  The next part of the plan is to make sure there’s no temptation sitting around.  I’m normally pretty irritated at other people’s insensitivity to temptation (like when a coworker throws a bowl of candy on your desk).  But I came into work today and threw my bowl of candy on another coworker's desk (gees, she’s so insensitive!).
I’ll also be making sure I don’t de-prioritize the gym—gym time has been getting the boot lately for other important tasks, like catching up on America’s Next Top Model.  I considered wearing my pedometer regularly again, but then I remembered I washed it (as in, left it in my jean’s pocket and did some laundry).  I’ll be stopping by Target on my way home from work today.
So how about you?  How do you get yourself back on the band wagon?  Tips and tricks?  And I’d love to know what kind of game plan you create for yourself for the holidays!  If you’re interested in guest blogging on how you survive the holidays, email me at liveitouteveryday [at] comcast.net.

Friday, October 29

Preventing Colds with My Gym Membership!

It’s Friday and, at least in my office, it’s payday!  I was checking out my accrued sick hours on my pay stub—laughing with a coworker that I can now officially be sick for half a day as I have four sick hours accrued!  I kidded her that sick days are far more efficiently spent when you can use them and not be sick.  It made me think for moment: when was the last time I was sick?
I have to say this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that since I have built regular fitness into my daily life I haven’t been sick (over a year now).  Now, it might just be luck of the draw—no one says you must get at least one cold every year.  But I’ve always been one of those people who gets stuffy and congested every spring and fall.  Something about the changing of the seasons messes with my sinuses.  But not this year!
There are some doctors out there who believe physical fitness can reduce your risk of catching a cold.  One study in 2006 showed that people who exercise are less likely to catch colds (sedentary people in these studies caught four times the colds!).  Some research has shown that during moderate exercise cells related to our immune systems circulate through the body more quickly, which allows them to better kill bacteria and viruses.
This is definitely not to say that if you’re feeling ill you should go out for a run or attend you regular cardio class.  I am definitely in the camp of people who believe if you’re sick, you need to stay home and keep your butt far, far away from me!  But this is to say that daily exercise could potentially help you ward off any bugs you might be hanging around.
So now that we’re creeping into cold and flu season, don’t skip those workouts!  Have you noticed similar health in your own fitness journey?  Or has the regular use of gym equipment made you more susceptible to germs?  ;)

Wednesday, October 27

Eat Your Veggies!

Did you know that only 1 out of every 3 adults in the US eat more than three servings of vegetables each day?  The CDC recently published some state numbers on how many servings of fruits and vegetables we’re eating every day.  There’s some fascinating information (and a couple of maps that would make you gasp) under the Health Professionals section here: www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov.
Are you surprised by that number?  I asked around my work to see what others thought, and one coworker replied, “I like vegetables, but I just don’t buy them often.”  This was me not that long ago.  I kept commenting to my nutritionist as I was doing the 20/20 Lifestyles program, “I forgot how much I love veggies and fruit!
We all have different reasons for not eating the veggies we need daily.  Some of us live in veggie-hostile environments.  My husband refuses to eat anything that grew out of the ground, so I’m the only person in our house who consumes vegetables.  Some people are unsure of what to buy or how to buy produce.  I knew how to buy good carrots and zucchini, but until I moved to Seattle produce like avocadoes and brussel sprouts were foreign territory to me.  And some people just don’t know what to do with the veggies once they have them.  Cooking some veggies takes a little practice, and not everyone loves boring, warmed, unseasoned vegetables.
I’ll chat about some specific veggies in later posts (so let me know if you have any requests!), but here are a few ideas of how we can build more produce into our diet every day:
·         Veggies (unadulterated) are always low-calorie.  You can absolutely include a little in every meal: a hand full of cherry tomatoes with your snack, a salad with your lunch, and grilled veggies with dinner are easy.  The key is to commit to keeping veggies around your house so you can pack them to go and snack on them at home.
·         Consider how you can use veggies to compliment what you’re already eating.  Don’t skip the lettuce and tomato on your burger.  Throw some broccoli in that mac ‘n cheese.  Add eggplant to your lasagna for a little excitement!
·         Consider how you could replace high-carbohydrate or calorie-dense foods with vegetables.  Instead of having bread as an appetizer, get a salad (watch that dressing!).  Instead of pasta, have your chicken or meatballs with asparagus and zucchini (or spaghetti squash as great substitute).  Instead of a bun for your hamburger, try portabella mushrooms or large leaf lettuce.
Do you find it hard to build veggies into your daily diet?  Are there specific days or times that are easier to get your servings of vegetables than others?  How have you found ways to work in fresh produce?

Monday, October 25

This Is How Skinny Feels!

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.  When people say this to me, I usually have to resist the desire to punch them in the face (although, because of my Body Combat class, I’m confident I wouldn’t punch them like a girl).
But really?  Do you really believe that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels?  I mean, if that were true, wouldn’t our country be suffering from an under-weight epidemic rather than an obesity epidemic?  And how many people who use this phrase actually understand what skinny feels like?
I’ll tell you what skinny feels like:
Skinny feels like the burn of sweat dripping into my eyes.
Skinny feels like my screaming quad muscles on the twentieth squat.
Skinny feels like abs so sore I can’t laugh or sneeze.
Skinny feels like my soaking wet bangs sticking to my face.
Skinny feels like my heart pumping out of my chest after an hour of cardio.
Skinny feels like tender feet pounding the pavement.
Skinny feels like peeling off drenched workout clothes.
Skinny feels like legs so weak that I can’t even climb the stairs.
Skinny feels like burning lungs and gasping for air.
Don’t fool yourself.  You might feel the above in getting to skinny, but it’s not like you get to skinny and then never have to work again.  You work that hard every day to stay at skinny.
So next time someone says “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” I’m going to look them in the eye and say “Then you have no idea what skinny feels like.

Saturday, October 23

The Old and the New


I don’t normally get all sappy and introspective here, but I’m going to indulge myself today.  I’m feeling pretty good about where I’m at right now—I’ve been putting up new photos of me and my husband around the house today!  I have to say, I honestly love my old photos.  I was never miserable or depressed about my weight, so I don’t look at those photos with disgust.  And I love having them around the house to remind me of how far I’ve come!
I also wear stripes way better than I used to!
I'm thrilled with my fitness and the control I've established over my weight.  And even though I'm not maintaining a perfect weight (my doctor and trainer keep asking me if I want to lose more now that I'm regularly 175), my weight fits my life well.  I feel like I could lose more weight when I want to, but that I'm liking where I am at now.
I can't encourage people enough: if you think your weight is interferring with your life, if you are unhappy with your weight and your body, you can change today!  Not someday.  Not tomorrow.  Today is the day when you can accept responsibility for your own health and your own emotional well being.  Don't wait!  How are you going to change your life today?

Wednesday, October 20

The Ridiculous Notion of Intuitive Eating

For those who may not be familiar with the term, Intuitive Eating is the notion of trusting your body to tell you when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat.  Intuitive Eating would sound like this: “I just eat until I feel full” or “I only eat when I feel hungry” or “I approach food with common sense.”
Often, Intuitive Eating is described as the opposite of dieting because it doesn’t require you track food or calories.  It’s based on the idea that if we are connected to our internal cues, then it is more difficult for us to be triggered by external forces.  So, you’re out for coffee with a friend and you don’t even glance at the pastries behind the glass; you’re not hungry.  You’re eating your favorite pizza for dinner and stop after one slice; you’re feeling full.  It’s Halloween and there’s a large bowl of your favorite candy sitting by your front door; no big deal.  It’s intuitive.
I need you to know the last sentence of that paragraph was dripping with sarcasm.  If you read each of those real life circumstances and thought they sounded like a nice fantasy, then you’re on the same track I am.
Intuitive Eating doesn’t equip you to handle life, just gives you a set of yes/no parameters around eating: am I hungry?  Intuitive Eating doesn’t give you tools to work with because it doesn’t take into consideration that hunger may not be the only chemical driver affecting our decisions.  When you understand the physical function of the body, you’ll realize that hunger is just a chemical reaction (ghrelin).  When we feel full, that’s a different chemical reaction (leptin).  There are chemical reactions separate to hunger and fullness (dopamine and opioids) that cause us to seek out foods because they make us feel good.
Intuitive Eating doesn’t work because your body and your brain are chemically and behaviorally conditioned.  It is easy to confuse the signals our body is giving us (for example, when I’m mildly thirsty, it feels like hunger to me).  Even if I was able to perfectly interpret signals of hunger and fullness in my body, I would begin to identify different kinds of hunger.  Who hasn’t sat down to eat a large dinner and then “made room” for dessert afterward?  If you just answered negatively to that question, let’s talk again after Thanksgiving.
If eating was intuitive, then the US wouldn’t be facing an obesity epidemic.  Have you ever tried eating intuitively?  Have you had any experience with differentiating the kinds of hunger you experience?  What do you think?

Tuesday, October 19

Exercise vs. Calories

Hoo boy!  It has been a crazy work week and it is only Tuesday!  It’s looking like my schedule is going to stay this way for a while too.  I’ve been forced to start considering my priorities since my time and energy is an absolute premium right now.
I’ve noticed that when this kind of stress arrives, my tendency is to prioritize exercise over calories.  What I mean is that I’ll catch myself not tracking what I eat or how much, as well as making choices to eat a lot of high-calorie comfort foods, but still prioritizing my exercise classes and time at the gym.  I find that, for me, it’s easy to justify those bad food choices because I’m still prioritizing my gym time.  It’s easier!  I like the gym.
So which is more important?  The answer is that both calories and exercise are important to losing and maintaining your weight, not to mention your overall health.  If you’re looking to change your life for good, you’re going to need to make lifestyle changes to both how you eat and how active you are.  And both eating well and exercising complement each other: having the energy for an intense cardio work out is hard when I’ve been loading up on doughnuts all day, and I always feel so tired no matter how well I’ve eaten when I haven’t been to the gym for a few days.
But we all know that life happens.  And sometimes you just can’t both watch your calories and make time for exercise.  Over the long term, making one a priority over the other could be a big mistake.  The choices I have made in the past to prioritize exercise almost always result in weight gain.  Why?  You’ve heard it before: calories in, calories out.  It doesn’t matter if I’m burning 500 calories at the gym every night—if I’m eating 3000 calories in a day, that’s still 1000 extra calories that is going right to my fat cells.  I’ve learned that (if I have to choose) I need to prioritize watching my calories and tracking my eating.
Have you found the same for yourself?  Are there other ways you’ve found to work within limited time and energy periods of life?

Friday, October 15

Maintaining That Body!

I’ve been becoming more and more comfortable with the concept of weight maintenance lately.  When I was finally emerging from my weight loss, I was nervous about being able to maintain my new weight for the rest of my life.
With the momentum from my weight loss at first, it was easy.  But then I chose to have some surgery and lost a lot of muscle mass during recovery.  I had only gained a few pounds, but it made me nervous again that I wouldn’t be able to continue all my good habits long term.  I mean—and I’m sure you know—life happens.  Unexpected work lunch meetings, and stress decisions, and social events happen.  And I’ve been struggling with how I perceive weight maintenance.
I was worried that my weight fluctuation meant that my maintenance was unstable.  I’ve been up and down within about 10 pounds (the lower end being my goal weight of about 170, the higher end being my ceiling that I set for myself of about 180).  I’ve found that it’s getting easier for me to maneuver within that 10 pound range.  For example, I’ll have a couple days at work with lunch meetings and Starbucks trips.  I’ll step on the scale and see that I’m approaching 180.  At that point I know I need to get my butt into gear.  I commit to making the gym a priority and plan out what I eat.  Usually with a couple days, I’m back to being closer to 170.
But this is what had me worried for a while—that my weight was “yo-yoing” and I wasn’t stably maintaining my goal weight.  However, I’ve come to the conclusion that my idea of weight maintenance was a fantasy.  No one gets onto the scale and sees the exact same number day after day.  Even if I could maintain perfect control over my eating and exercising, my weight would still fluctuate within a couple pounds.
I’ve decided that this fluctuation is exactly what weight maintenance is: that I manage to live my life with the unexpected and maintain control over my weight.  It is not that I am maintaining a number on the scale, but I maintain control over the weight I gain and the weight I lose.
How about you?  Have you struggled with the idea of weight maintenance?  Have you reached a point of comfort in maintaining your weight?

Monday, October 11

Milking the Dairy Debate

When it comes to dairy foods, everyone is pretty divided on whether we should dub it a “healthy” food group and how much of it we should eat.  How much calcium do we need?  Are dairy foods the best way to get calcium?  Should I only consume fat free dairy foods?  Does this mean I need to stop smothering everything I eat in cheese?
Disclaimer:  For our discussion today, I’m completely ignoring the antibiotics/organic debate and looking purely at dairy foods from a nutritional standpoint.  Also, many of my in-laws are dairy farmers so I would appreciate if they stopped reading right here (as I would like nice Christmas presents this year).
Generally, most people need about 600 to 1000 milligrams of calcium each day.  However, your body can only absorb about 500 milligrams at once (about one third of what you need), so it’s impossible to get all the calcium you need in one dose.  Dairy foods are often the easiest, and quickest, ways to get doses of calcium into our diets; but did you know that calcium is naturally found in many other foods?
Salmon, tofu, almonds and broccoli are just a few natural foods that are great sources of calcium.  Leafy green vegetables are the best low-calorie source of calcium (not to mention a slew of other nutrients).  An orange actually has more than half the calcium that a serving of cottage cheese has.  An artichoke has more calcium than a serving of cream cheese.  Interestingly, sesame seeds are the most abundant source of calcium in nature (cup of sesame seeds = 2200 mg, cup of milk = 280 mg).
However, dairy foods can be high in saturated fats, so we need to be careful of the quantity of dairy foods in your diet (remember that small amounts of saturated fat in our diets is fine).  Reduced fat dairy foods are great sources of protein.  There are many fat free dairy foods that actually taste pretty good as well.
So what’s the verdict?  Well, that’s up to you!  Personally, I take daily calcium supplements, sometimes eat greek yogurt for breakfasts, and eat low fat cheese sticks as snacks.  All in all, it really only comes to about 2 to 4 servings of dairy each day.  Do you find that less dairy each day would works better for you?   More?  Just make sure to track those calories and watch the fat.

Friday, October 8

Are You Drinking Your Weight Gain?

Considering my profession, I have an appreciation for good marketing.  I heard about this ad the other day on the radio and just had to look it up:

This ad comes from the New York City Health Department, and I love how they have executed it.  The look on the woman’s face at the end is the kicker.  She’s just absolutely disgusted at him as she sits and drinks her soda.  "You'd never eat 16 packs of sugar.  Why would you drink 16 packs of sugar?"
But I can hear you now, “Yeah, yeah, I know.  But I don’t drink a lot of soda.”  Here’s a study you’d be crazy interested in, then.  Scientists fed people either 450 calories of jelly beans or soda each day for a month.  At the end, the soda drinkers had gained more weight than the jelly bean eaters.  Why?  Apparently, the jelly bean eaters unconsciously reduced the calories they ate in other places, but the soda drinkers didn’t.  This means the term “empty calories” is more true than we know.  Our bodies don’t recognize calories from some beverages as sustenance—our brains continue to tell us to eat the same amount of food even though we don’t actually need the same amount of calories.
Interestingly, the radio article I heard this ad mentioned in was about New York City wanting to stop people from using food stamps to purchase soda.  There are already bans on other kinds of food people can use food stamps on—however, soda is among some high sugar foods and drinks that people are able to get.  Many studies have shown that low income families suffer from the highest rates of obesity than any other social class.  Are you wondering how that could be?  Try it out: take $10 to your grocery store and try to purchase fresh, healthy foods to make a dinner for four people.  You’ll find that your $10 stretches much further if you leave the produce isle.  Carbs and fat are cheap.
So, are you drinking a lot of calories in your day?  Are there any low or no-calorie drinks you’ve found to help keep your taste buds happy?
Finally, if you and your family are privileged enough to afford healthy and fresh foods every day, I would challenge you to consider families without that luxury next time you’re in your grocery store.

Wednesday, October 6

Those Sneaky Health Halos

We’ve previously discussed Health Halos, which is a fancy word for the perception of “healthy” that we apply to foods that carry certain labels—labels like “low fat” or “sugar free.”  You can check out that post here.
Today I’d like to take a look at another category of labels that are creating health halos all over the place: organic, all natural, or locally grown.
I read a lot of the other blogs in my category.  I find that many of the healthy living blogs that focus on food (you’ll know them by the endless stream of food-photo filled posts) use a lot of the above buzz words.  One blogger in particular is genuinely trying her best to eat as healthy as she possibly can but often shares recipes that have ingredient lists like this: organic flour, all natural sugar, locally raised eggs, etc.  Congratulations!  You’ve just made an organic, all natural, locally supported waffle that has the exact same calories as any waffle at any Der Waffel Haus.
Unprocessed?  Yes.  Healthy?  No.
The worst part is—as is with any health halo—we tend to eat more of a food that we think is healthy than we would if we knew we were eating something that has a higher calorie content.  One of my favorite magazines, Cooking Light, just wrote an article on this: check it out.
When we’re not on our guard, it’s easy to assume that organic is the same as healthy.  Eating unprocessed foods is definitely a healthy goal.  And there are plenty of organic foods that are also low calorie.  But you ask: “Oh how are we to tell the difference?  Oh where are we to find this elusive information?” (I hope you put as much dramatic voice into those questions as I did in my head.)  You need to look right past those labels and headlines to find the nutritional information on packaging.  You check serving size first, calories second and then scan the rest of the info (looking particularly at fat and carbohydrates).
Have you ever eaten a food and only found afterward that it wasn’t as healthy as you thought?  Are there labels that you think you’re particularly attracted to?  Why do you think these kinds of labels work so well on us?

Monday, October 4

Recipe for Success: Support

I left our discussion of support for last because I feel that, in a way, a system of support is the most important ingredient to successful weight loss and long term weight management.  After all the commitments and changes that you make, you’re still only one person.  By ourselves it’s much easier to justify choices that move you away from your success.  But when you build into your life a network of people and resources that can help in the times you need them (and maybe not always even when you want them), then you’re setting yourself up for long term success.
Be purposeful about how you build your support system, and try to cover yourself in different areas of your life.  Most of us have a supportive friend or family members, but our friends and family aren’t with us all day long every day.
Support in my own life aside from friends and family:
  • I have relationships with my exercise class teachers so that, if I were to miss a regular class for a couple weeks, I know I would have an email from them asking where I was.
  • I have a counselor whom I used to visit frequently during my weight loss, but I continue to see him two or three times a year now that I’m working on maintaining my weight.
  • I have a relationship with a coworker who loves to walk at lunch when it’s sunny.
  • I follow a lot of other foodie and weight loss blogs to help keep myself focused daily.
As you can see, I can’t make it through a normal day without encountering at least one person in my support network.  Some people are stronger levels of support than others—my coworker isn’t about to come over to my cubicle and yell at me to go walk, but my counselor is a great kick in the butt if I haven’t been making great choices leading up to one of my appointments.  A good support system will have multiple points of contact as well as multiple levels of support.
What kind of support system do you have?  What are the people who support you like?  Do you feel well covered?  Any holes that might need fortified?

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