Wednesday, March 31

Examining Our Motivations

As you commit to making changes in your eating habits, you’ll need to take some time to examine your motivations when you eat. There are many reasons we eat, and the below list by no means covers them all:

Hunger – You eat because your body is telling you it needs energy.

Emotion – You eat because you have trained yourself to eat when you have particular emotion (like anger or excitement), or you eat because you are avoiding dealing with an emotion (like disappointment or depression).

Addiction – You eat because your body is craving the “feel-good” chemicals your body releases by certain foods.

Habit – You eat because you have trained your body to automatically take certain actions (like drinking coffee in the morning or eating during a movie).

Social – You eat because you automatically eat with people (like a celebration or dinner with friends).

Let’s face it: we rarely eat just because we’re hungry. For me, I was addicted to sugar and sweets. Every time I wanted to eat something I had to make myself stop and ask, “Am I hungry?” Sometimes, even after I answered my own question I had to ask, “Really? Am I actually hungry?” For a long while the answer was “no.”

I found that my “hunger” wasn’t actually connected to any one event or time or person, but that I just wanted to taste something sweet at the moment. I knew I could force that “feel-good” feeling and I couldn’t fool myself any longer. If I wasn’t smart and hadn’t rid my entire house of all sweets and temptations, simply walking into my kitchen would have been like sending an alcoholic into a bar.

Take some time to think about the times you eat, the places, the people you’re with, the frequency, the types of food you’re eating. Look for patterns! You may not figure out what your motivations are right away, but keep it in the back of your mind. One of these days you’ll be reaching for a cookie and it’ll hit you like lightning.

Tuesday, March 30

Breakfast Club!

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” I prefer to think that all meals are created equal, but—nonetheless—it’s important to have breakfast and do it right.

I won’t go into the details about why breakfast is important—we all know breakfast is important for energy and health; we just choose to ignore it. Do yourself right and stop ignoring breakfast!

Breakfast doesn’t need to be a large or complex meal. Every person is different, so you need to experiment with different options to see what kind of breakfast gives you the best start to your day. As you try different things, these are the basics: get a minimum of 15 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat (ideally, heart healthy fats). Carbs are easy to get at breakfast; Americans are obsessed with carbs at breakfast (just think about the cereal aisle at the grocery store—it has its own aisle!).

You want to make sure you’re balancing your carbs with your protein. So, if you’re eating 15 grams of protein, then you’ll want to get about 15-25 grams of carbs. The point of balancing breakfast this way is to get enough protien and fat that you're not hungry for a while, but enough carbs that you get a boost of energy to start your day.

As you try different options, you may find that having too many carbs at breakfast makes you hungry too soon in your morning (sending you looking for snacks and knocking your calories off for the day). You may find that protein from certain foods seem to keep you satisfied longer. You may find that a lower calorie breakfast with a small snack in the middle of your morning is the best way to get you to lunch.

One of my favorite breakfast options is a low-fat version of my mum’s Frittata (one serving):

1 egg, 1 Tbsp of part skim ricotta, 1 oz. of low fat mozzarella cheese, and 15 pieces of Turkey Pepperoni

I throw everything together in a mini frying pan. Add a piece of toast or some fruit to balance out your carbs (the whole meal is under 300 calories) and you’re good to go for the morning!

Sunday, March 28

Life-Long Maintenance

This past week was crazy as I was officially finishing up my participation in the 20/20 Lifestyles program. I took a final physical assessment (it’s amazing how fit I am!), final measurements, and my “After” photo.

I was taking the opportunity to think back over my mindset while I was losing weight and now as I look ahead. From the beginning, I’ve been putting into place in my life healthy habits and safeguards. I have and still regard these as life-long. This has not been a diet for me. This has been serious change that I envision doing for the rest of my life.

Diets will never work as life-long change! You’ll make severe choices (like cutting out all treats and sweets) by motivating yourself with the thought that it’s only temporary. Then, when you’ve decided you’ve had enough of the severe choices, you go back to the bad habits that got you to the point where you started.

We need to work realistic balance into our lives that we can maintain long term! When you commit to some healthy decision, spend some time imagining yourself making that decision again and again for the rest of your life. My commitment to meal track—I may not need to track every calorie I eat for the rest of my life, but I’ve worked it into my habits and can envision myself tracking all my calories until the day I die. For me, meal tracking is a very realistic commitment.

Think over healthy commitments you’ve made in the past and consider why they are commitments you don’t maintain today. How can you change those choices to make them more realistic and life-long maintenable?

Wednesday, March 24

Water: You've Heard It Before

I’m hoping I don’t lose you right away with today’s tidbit! I don’t want to bore you with a long tirade on how important it is to drink enough water, so here is the short and sweet version:

· Our bodies are primarily made up of water, and our muscles are made of 75% water (our brains are 85% water).

· Because our muscles are primarily water, water helps us maintain muscle tone.

· You need to drink at least 8 eight-ounce glasses of water each day.

· Water can help increase satiety (not feeling hungry).

There are plenty of other reasons why you need (and should) drink enough water throughout your day. And most of them we already know, but simply ignore.

As I was losing weight, I had to essentially re-teach myself how to read the signs my body was giving. At first, I couldn’t trust that hungry feeling—my hunger could have been an emotional response, a chemical need (we’ll talk more about this tomorrow), or just habit. I quickly realized that often when I was thirsty I was reading the sign as hunger. I think many of us misinterpret our thirst, denying our bodies a much needed component of our health.

So grab a water bottle and make it habit! Take it on the bus in the morning. Take it to lunch with you (to keep you from grabbing that soda). Take it to that afternoon meeting. Before you know it, drinking water will simply be part of your day!

Tuesday, March 23

Accuracy for the Win!

For the sake of today’s blog, we’re going to assume that you read yesterday’s, and—instead of whining about how you’d like to lose weight—you’ve started meal tracking to help do something about it. Now that you’ve simply started writing down what you’re eating, let’s chat about a few details that will help you keep a more accurate food journal.

Weigh everything. If you want to keep an accurate food journal, weighing your food is the key to truly knowing how many calories you consume. This isn’t to say you can’t simply measure you food. Just let me know which you think is more accurate once you’ve tried to squeeze apple slices into your measuring cup.

Know your serving sizes. If you’re weighing your food, then you might wonder why you need to learn about serving sizes. But it’s not always possible to weigh your food. Trust me: I’ve tried to squeeze my scale into my purse to take to restaurants. It’s these times you need to be able to look at your plate and estimate the amount of food you’re eating. There are lots of sites out there that can give you an idea of serving sizes, but I like Web MD’s interactive.

Get familiar with calories. As you’re entering food into your journal, you’ll want to start tracking your calorie intake. The best place to find this information is on the packaging of the food you’re eating. For foods that aren’t “packaged” (like fruit and veggies), there are a lot of sites out there that can help (About.com has one of the easiest to use). After a while, you’ll find that you know the calories of certain foods without even looking them up!

An accurate food journal is an important key to your success in not only losing weight, but staying healthy for the rest of your life! You won’t have to keep your journal forever, but keep it long enough that you can begin making healthy choices (or even not-so-healthy choices, but the right way) on your own.

Monday, March 22

Meal Tracking

You make an omelet for breakfast and nibble on a slice of cheese as you cook. You put together a peanut butter sandwich for your kids and lick the knife off before putting it into the sink. Your coworker gives you a couple M&Ms from the bag he’s eating while you’re visiting at his desk.

These nibbles, licks and bites can add up to hundreds of calories in a day! But if you look back over your day and try to remember what you ate, I’ll bet they don’t make it to your memory.

Meal tracking is simply writing down or recording somehow everything you eat. A meal tracker, or food journal, gives you an awareness around eating you probably didn’t have before. It also gives you the opportunity to look back over what you’ve eaten and analyze your choices and habits. When you don’t have it written down in front of you, it’s easy to reason away what you’ve eaten and why.

So, when you meal track, what do you write down? Everything! If you eat 3 M&Ms, then you record that you ate 3 M&Ms. You write down that lick of peanut butter and the nibble of cheese. After all, 2 teaspoons of peanut butter, a half ounce of cheese and 3 M&Ms add up to 145 calories! And, if we’re truthful, our nibbles, licks and bites are probably bigger than that.

There are online food journals (some free, some for pay), but the easiest way to start is to simply grab a notebook or open up a Word doc. Just start writing down everything you eat. You can even record the time you eat to help when you reflect back on what you’ve written. The important thing is to just start! You’ll find that you begin to build an awareness of every time you make a choice to eat which is a first step to gaining control over your eating habits.

Time Magazine has an interesting article about meal tracking: check it out here. There's some fascinating statistics that may make you grab that journal and start meal tracking today!

Thursday, March 18

Little Activities, Big Difference

There’s so much more diet information I have for you, but I’m going to take a bit of a break to talk exercise. As we discussed in “Dispelling the Myths,” you can’t be healthy and lose weight without exercise.

But exercise doesn’t always have to mean an hour at the gym. Broaden your horizons and start looking at the opportunities to be active in your life!

Let’s talk about your NEAT, and I don’t mean how tidy you are. NEAT is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis which is just a very complicated way of talking about the calories you burn during the day that aren’t from exercise. These activities look like you dancing in the driver’s seat as you listen to a song, or shaking a leg while you sit in a meeting, or gesticulating wildly while telling a story. Any minor physical activity during your day contributes toward your NEAT, and NEAT could account for anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of your calories burned for the day (although, for your NEAT to account for 50 percent you’d probably need to be a ten-year-old with ADD)! If you’ve ever wondered how skinny people who don’t try to be skinny stay skinny, observe how fidgety they are.

Another small change that could have a big impact on your health is walking. You could do well for yourself to purchase a pedometer (they can be very inexpensive, just look at Target or Wal-Mart). Just throw that pedometer in your pocket and see how many steps you walk in a day. You might impress yourself when you see 2,000 or 3,000 steps, until I tell you that above 5,000 should be your normal and 10,000 steps is the magic number to help you lose weight. But it’s easier than you think! Walk the long way to the printer at work. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the farthest parking spot at Costco (I guarantee you—if you park as far away as you can when you make a Costco trip—3,000 steps, minimum!). Simply increasing the steps you take in a day could make the difference of 100 to 300 calories burned!

Look for little ways to stay active in your day—it could make a big difference in the long run.

Wednesday, March 17

The Wedding Dress

In October last year, I was down about 30 pounds when I realized I could probably fit in my wedding dress again! It had been seven and a half years since the big day, and I “grew” out of that sucker pretty quickly. I put it on and it was almost a little big!

I dragged Jared (the husband) to the ProClub to play photographer. The picture is with my doctor, my trainer and my dietician (Dr. Perkins, Heath and Ashley).

I’ve had so much fun wearing my dress again! I wore it while my guild raided Ulduar in World of Warcraft. I wore it to read on the couch (of course my black cat wanted to sit on my lap). I really wanted to go grocery shopping in it, but Jared just rolled his eyes when I suggested it.

Now? It’s falling off me. Sad face! I can almost suck in and have it literally fall off me, but my hips are in the way. I’m getting it taken in so I can wear it again—I’ll post pics when I do!

Removing Temptation

You’ve made the decision to start eating healthy and maybe even lose a few pounds, congratulations! The next step is to change your environment as much as possible to help you keep this commitment. So many of us commit to eating healthy in the morning, but then reach for chips or cookies in the evening. Why are chips and cookies even within your reach?!

Get the junk out of the house! The easiest way to overcome temptation is to simply remove it. And I mean remove it: throw it away! Don’t you dare force it on your friends just because you feel bad throwing your junk food away. Don’t wait until it’s gone—throw it away.

Don’t use your kids and family as an excuse either. “But why should my family suffer because I have to?” The truth is: if it isn’t good for you to eat, why in the world would you feed it to them? “That’s easy—because I want my children to have all the same issues with food that I have.” Remember The Hunger Chat? Do your kids a favor and teach them how to eat properly.

If—after all that—you still can’t bring yourself to get rid of the junk food, then try something new. Take all of the tempting foods in your house and put them in a box. Put a BIG label on that box that reads “Why am I eating this?” or “Am I hungry?” or something similar. Take that box out to your garage or up to your attic and put it in a high, hard-to-reach, difficult-to-get-to place. We’re making your laziness work for you in this instance. You’ll be sitting on the couch thinking “I really want something munchy.” But then you’ll remember you have to go all the way out to the garage to get it. Should you actually want something munchy enough that you get up off your butt to go get it, read that label before opening the box and take a minute to consider the answer to that question.

The goal is to make it as hard as possible to break your commitment!

Tuesday, March 16

Know Your Numbers

When you try to lose or maintain your weight, your most important piece of knowledge is your calories limits. To boil it down, weight loss is easy if you know your limits: to lose weight your calories out need to be more than your calories in, to maintain weight your calories in need to be the same as your calories out.
But most of us don’t have a clue what calories we need in a day, let alone the calories we actually burn in a day. Unfortunately, most calories calculators you can find online overestimate the calories we need. I tested several and they all estimated that I could eat 300 calories more than my current maximum! An overestimate of 300 might not seem like much to you. But if I ate an extra 300 calories each day for a year, I would gain 30 pounds!
With the help of Jared (who wins Husband of the Year award for this one), I have a spreadsheet that you can simply enter your weight, height, age and sex into and get your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. Your BMR is the number of calories your body uses just by living. Last Saturday when you sat on the couch and did a big fat nothing all day—you would have only burned the calories of your BMR.
This spreadsheet will give you the estimated calories you would burn based on your level of activity as well. After you enter all your information, your BMR is your minimum calories to maintain your weight. Based on your level of activity, that number is your maximum calories to maintain your weight.
If you’re looking to lose weight, you don’t want to eat any less than a couple hundred calories less than the BMR for the weight you would like to achieve. For example, I would like to get to 170 pounds which has (for me) a BMR of about 1500 calories. My weight loss calories range is about 1200 to 1400 calories. This is just a general guideline for you, though. If you want more specific details, you could easily talk to your doctor or a dietician.

The Hunger Chat

Wouldn’t it be great if at one point in our lives our parents sat us down said, “Son, we need to have a chat. You’re becoming a man now, and you’re going to start feeling hungry all the time. Don’t worry, son, it’s a normal part of life. But let me share some secrets with you that will help you manage that hunger.”

Aside from being a really creepy conversation (especially if you were a girl reading that), wouldn’t it be nice if someone had actually taught us about food and how to eat? We have habits and reasons for eating what we eat and when we eat it, but we’re not aware of half them nor do we know where they came from.

Hunger is the biggest reason that we make many of our food and drink decisions throughout the day (there are also emotional and psychological reasons, but we’ll talk about those later). Hunger is just our bodies’ way of letting us know we need energy. There are ways we can eat that energize our bodies more efficiently than others.

When you eat carbohydrates, your body converts them to glucose and your blood sugar (literally, the sugar in your blood) rises. This gives you more energy—you feel more awake and alert. This is what is happening when you go to your coworker’s desk to ask a question and sneak a Snickers from the candy jar there. You’re giving your body an infusion of energy.

But that energy isn’t going to last long with just sugar in your system. Your blood sugar rises rapidly, then the sugar is absorbed and your blood sugar falls rapidly—you begin to feel tired and lagged. This leaves your body looking for energy, and it knows where the best sources of energy are: sweet foods! You eat that Snickers bar, but 20 minutes later you’re thinking about another one. Or several.

When you eat protein and fats, they take longer for your body to metabolize them (to turn them into energy). This is where balance is key! If you were to just eat protein or fat, you wouldn’t get that spike of energy from having your blood sugar rise.

So you eat a little carbs and a little protein or fat: the carbs spike your blood sugar up but, just at the point when your body uses up the carbs, your body is releasing the glucose and amino acids from metabolizing the protein and fats. Your blood sugar is now up and it stays up! You feel energized for hours and you’re body is burning calories efficiently. And your blood sugar slowly lowers as you use energy, so that you’re not hungry until your next meal time.

Monday Night Body Attack!

I just got back from my typical Monday night: BODY ATTACK at the Redmond Gold’s Gym! I can’t even tell you how inspiring and motivating being a part of this class—no, this community—has been for me as I lost weight, and now as I keep it off.

BODY ATTACK is a high impact, sports-inspired aerobic workout (not too dance-y for the uncoordinated me). I love the workout, and it’s the highlight of the beginning of my week. The teachers motivate and encourage me every week (holla’ Vicky, Julie, Ryan and Jenna!). And my classmates are amazing—I stood toward the back today (I don’t often), and some of my classmates have fantastic looking butts (very motivating)!

Even if this doesn’t quite sound like your cup of tea, I recommend getting yourself involved in an exercise community of some kind. When you love what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, you’re far more likely to keep it up long term.

Monday, March 15

Insulin Invasion!

This information may at first seem very unrelated to weight loss and management, but I promise you it’s some of the most important information you could put into action. Our culture is inundated with carbohydrates, and we need to know how our bodies respond to carbs before we can consume them in a healthy way.

First things first: insulin is a hormone our bodies produce which allows our cells to absorb the glucose (or sugar) in our blood and convert it to energy. So we need insulin in our system so that we can use the sugar in our blood. Think of insulin as the key to the locked doors in our cells; insulin opens the door and lets sugar enter the cell.

Here’s the catch, though—as soon as we taste something sweet on our tongue or smell something sweet, our bodies begin producing insulin. So what happens when we consume something sweet (like a diet soda) but there is no sugar in our blood for the insulin to work with?

That insulin sticks around until it has sugar to work with. You may not even realize it, but you’ve just caused your body to produce a whole lot of insulin that it isn’t going to use. With all that extra insulin sitting around, your cells get used to it. Your cells eventually become insulin resistant, but your body thinks “I should probably just produce more of it and that will help.” This insulin resistance causes hyperinsulinemia, where you’re just producing way more insulin than you need.

Type 2 diabetes, anyone?

So, today at 2:30 in the afternoon you’ll be standing at the fridge in the office kitchen. You’re looking at this 6-pack of Pepsi and Carla’s can of Diet Pepsi (she’s wound so tight that she has a post-it with her name on the can). You’re thinking to yourself, “I really want a snack, but I should go for the diet since it has no calories.”

Wrong! It’s almost better for you to grab the regular Pepsi—I say “almost” because you’re still drinking over 100 calories of sugar and caffeine. So you reach for the regular Pepsi (I mean, you’re pretty sure you saw Bob put them in here, but they’re clearly not labeled).

Or you could skip the soda altogether. There’s this stuff called “water”…

Dispelling the Myths

Let’s get the “I thought I heard from a friend who had a cousin who heard on the news one time” beliefs that affect the decisions we make out of the way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a horrible decision thinking the whole time that I was making a good one.

I can lose weight just by cutting my calories—I don’t really need to exercise.

You could just cut your calories. But if you’re not using or building your muscles, you’ll lose weight from both fat and muscle mass. For every ten pounds you lose, four of those pounds will be from muscle mass which will cause your metabolism to slow. And, no, lifting weights and building muscle will not make you gain weight (well, it might, but only if you’re starting out at a pretty healthy weight).

I should simply cut as much fat as possible from my foods.

There is such a thing as “healthy fat.” Healthy fats counter act much of the damage from the bad fats we consume. Even some fats with a bad reputation (like saturated fats) are an important component of nutrition.

Nutrition bars or protein bars can help me lose weight.

I hate to break it to you, but there’s no silver bullet for losing weight. Even if there was, nutrition bars wouldn’t be it. Most nutrition bars are primarily carbohydrates, which will spike your blood sugar. Your blood sugar will then drop quickly: you’ll be hungry and looking for more carbs. Even some protein bars can have five times more carbohydrates than protein. Wouldn’t that make it a carb bar?

All natural and organic foods are better and healthier for you.

Just because a food touts that it is organic and all natural doesn’t mean it is also good for you. Guess what? Fat is organic. Sugar is natural. Both can be consumed in very natural foods, but you definitely don’t want to overload on them simply because of that.

Eating late in the evening will make you gain extra weight.

It doesn’t matter when you eat your calories in a day: your body will process what you eat in the same way no matter what time of day it is. However, we need to be aware of how the time of day affects the choices we make. You may find that you eat a lot of sweets in the evening. If so, you may want to cut out eating altogether after a certain time of day in order to avoid the temptation.

I can diet and exercise, lose some weight, and then go back to how I ate and lived before.

Did you even listen to yourself as you said that? Somebody is in denial… No! You need to make lifelong changes, which is why those changes need to be realistic. Some fad diet will only help you in the short term.

Sunday, March 14

The Basics

There’s so much to cover, I almost don’t know where to start! First, the basics:

All calories come from only three sources: protein, carbohydrates and fat. Most food consists of a combination of these three sources, although in varying proportions. It is important to eat a diet balanced with each of these sources as they each play important roles in nutrition and satiety (not being hungry, being satisfied).

Protein is critical for cell growth, maintenance and repair (as well as building muscle mass) and is an energy source for your body. Protein is the main contributor toward satiety because it takes longer for the intestines to digest and absorb.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our bodies. In the case of red blood cells and brain tissues carbohydrates are the sole source of energy those cells can use (hmmm... wonder what that means for diets that completely exclude carbs?)

Fats are not only important for fat-soluble vitamins, but they also contribute toward satiety. Healthy fats are needed f regulating blood pressure, blood clotting, our immune systems and organ functions.

Live It Out Every Day

Eight months ago, I made a decision that completely changed the course my life had been on.

I decided for the first time in my life that my weight was going to be unhealthy in the long run—though I had no health issues at the time—I decided to do something about it. I’ve been overweight since my pre-teens, but have had an overblown sense of self-esteem. I never felt bad about who I was; so I never felt any need to change. (Photo to the right is August 2009 with my beautiful best-friend, Lauren.)

But my aging grandparents gave me a glimpse of what unhealthy living can do to you. I guess I like my life so much that I wanted to live well as long as possible!

So I signed up for the 20/20 Lifestyles program at the Pro Sports Club in Bellevue, Washington. It’s an intensive weight loss program that involves a lot of education and a lot of exercise. I signed on with pretty low expectations. I was going to get healthy, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up over dreams of being “skinny."

But, from the start, I prepared myself to make these changes stick. These weren’t changes I was going to do for several months and then quit. I was preparing myself to live what I was being taught out for the re
st of my life. Every day.

In eight months, I lost 88 pounds.

And I worked hard to do it. There’s no way I’m going to undo that work over a couple of Thin Mints. But Thin Mints are really good… And you can’t avoid Thin Mints forever. They’re there every year. Every March, just calling to you using adorable little girls posted like sentinels at the grocery store entrance. You could try to will-power it through the Girl Scout gauntlet every March—or you could learn how to eat healthy in a way that allows room for a few Thin Mints!

This is what 20/20 taught me: how to enjoy the foods I love in a healthy way!

I’ve been so excited over everything I have learned and continue to learn about food that I want to share it with everyone who has ever eaten a dozen Thin Mints and felt guilty and with everyone who has looked longingly at a Thin Mint but not eaten a single crumb.

I hope you’ll join me as I take what I’ve learned and Live It Out Every Day.

I'm out for answers to the big questions in my life!
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Live it out everyday