Sunday, March 13

Meal-Tracking Online

You ever have one of those work weeks that by Friday make you feel like you’re panting and out of breath?  I’ve had a couple of those back to back.  But my games have launched finally and the worst is behind me—back to the grind!
One of the most important tools you can possibly keep in your repertoire for weight loss and maintenance is meal tracking.  For weight loss, meal tracking can give you a sense of control over how quickly or slowly you lose weight.  Your meal tracker won’t make food decisions for you, but it gives you control over your accountability.  For weight maintenance, meal tracking is the perfect way to get yourself back on track—like when your company sends you to NYC and you decide to go a little nuts on NY pizza and street meat.  Hypothetically, of course.
I use a great meal tracker that was created by the 20/20 Lifestyles program that I did my weight loss with (they’re hoping to make the program available to the public in the future).  But there are a lot of great meal trackers online.
One of my good friends started using the LiveStrong.com My Plate program created by the Lance Armstrong Foundation (http://www.livestrong.com/myplate).  She’s found the program to have almost all features she needs to help her track her weight loss (as well as some health issues).  Here are her favorite features for My Plate:
  • Provides numbers on calories, carbs, protein, fat, and sodium for each food.  You can create saved meals (foods consumed at the same time) and recipes which provide the same numbers.
  • Huge database of foods (even my weird gluten free foods) including foods that don’t have calories on the package (like Whole Foods’ sausages).
  • Tracks weight, exercise and water intake as well.
  • Has reasonable calorie goals (although the goals for fat, carbs, protein are a little skewed towards carbs).  Can chart weight against calories and see if a change is necessary.
  • Great recipe feature!  Since my husband and I cook together, and we usually cook multiple portions to reheat later.  What I do is I put all the ingredients into the system, and the servings, and it will tell me the calories/protein/carbs per serving (this helps me decide if it is worth making).  Then when we make it, I weight the pot empty and full and put into the system the total weight so that it will remind me what the right serving size is each time I have it.
Have you discovered any online (or offline) meal trackers that have been helpful?

Sunday, February 27

Cutting off the Reward Center

Did you know that the activity in the reward center of the brains of obese people is exactly the same as cocaine addicts?  I’ll say it again just in case that question didn’t sink in: when I am eating, my brain activity is the same as someone who is taking cocaine.
You’ll want to share this link I was reading with anyone who says people can’t be addicted to certain foods.
So what does this mean for us who struggle with our weight and our compulsion to eat?  Science is beginning to prove that high sugar, high fat and high salt foods have addictive qualities for certain people.  This means that some of us will have to be more vigilant than others in trying to control our eating habits.
A few of the most important things to remember:
Build in repetition of your new habits.  You have to create and repeat a new routine for yourself.  This won’t always help you overcome temptation in the moment, but it will give you a firmly planted daily routine to fall back on when you do give into temptation.
Get your blood moving.  Exercise by itself raises the dopamine that your body releases.  Exercise won’t give you the same rush that a piece of cake would, but it could give you enough of that feel-good feeling that you’re able to resist in the moment.
Find non-food rewards.  I caught myself for a while rewarding my good eating habits with the promise of bad eating moments.  To my brain, I was only reinforcing the hold that those highly palatable foods had over me.  Find big and small ways to reward yourself non-calorically, and reward yourself often.  This also means finding new ways to deal with stress.  You need to find ways to relax that won’t lead you straight back to the foods you used to turn to.
Have you found any good ways to stop the pull that food has over you?  Do you feel like there is nothing that could stop it?  How do you see this happening to you each day?

Wednesday, February 23

Cycle of Overeating

Last week, we began to talk about the reward centers in our brains.  The reward center is the area in our brain that is responsible for the feelings we have that motivate us toward certain behaviors—obviously, the behaviors that give us the most pleasure.  Our brains release hormones that drive us toward actions, like eating or social interaction, that give us that sense of reward.
However, because of reaction in our brains when we eat highly palatable foods (foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt), we develop a habitual cycle that compels us to overeat.
I’m sure you’ve found that, after dieting for a while and abstaining from the highly palatable foods that you love, you begin to build up your expectations and memories around those foods.  You’ve been on your diet perfectly for weeks, but now you’re remembering those amazing doughnuts they sell down the street.  You remember how perfect they tasted, and you find it’s all you can think about.  However, when you finally give in to your craving, your first bite isn’t as good as you remember it.
Even though you’re a little disappointed at the memory of that food, you’re brain is still darn happy that you gave in.  Our brains are driving us to give in constantly—after all, our brains are programmed to seek the things that trigger our reward centers!
I’m sure you’ve also found that, after consistently giving in to those cravings for a while, you find that you no longer crave the one food you wanted and now crave a different food.  This is because the rewards center in our brains can become immune to the response that a food previously triggered.  This is exactly what is happening when you cave and eat an entire sleeve of Thin Mints (those horrible Girl Scouts will be out soon, prepare yourself).  You finish off the cookies, but find that now you’re craving potato chips.  Your brain says, “Ok, I’m done with the cookies.  The magic is gone.  But you know what would do the trick?  Something salty!”
I’m sure you see how overeating can become cyclical in these instances.  It’s so tempting to run from one highly palatable food to the other, keeping that “high” in our brains constant.  Do you see this cycle in your own life?
We’ll be talking once more this week about stopping this cycle in its tracks.   There is hope!

Wednesday, February 16

Making You Fat Is Good for Business

You may not realize this, but the American restaurant industry has perfected the science of making you fat.
Through research and scientific examination, we now know that certain foods trigger the pleasure center or the rewards center in our brains.  Foods high in sugar cause a reaction in our brains that drives us to seek out more of that food and eat more than we need to eat of that food.  Take that high-sugar food and add fat—you get a stronger reaction; take that high-sugar, high-fat food and add salt—you get the strongest reaction.
The restaurant industry employs scientists and researchers to help their chefs create food that is highly palatable (longtime readers will recognize this phrase right away).  These highly palatable foods are engineered to make you strongly desire them and overeat them.  Restaurants layer salt on fat on sugar and then sit back as you dish out your money to them. 
For example, fast food French fries.  At the processing plant, they slice up potatoes (a carbohydrate that your body immediately processes into sugar) and fry them in salted vegetable oil (fat with added salt).  They are also sprayed with a sugar solution to help them brown (more sugar).  The French fries are then flash frozen and sent to the restaurant.  At the restaurant, the frozen fries are tossed again into frying oil and then salted before they’re served (more fat and salt).  What’s a French fry?  It’s sugar layered with fat and salt, more sugar, and more fat and salt.
No wonder our brains seek out these foods exactly like an addiction.
I’ll be talking more in the next week or so about our reward centers.  Our long term success depends upon understanding how our brains work and creating a plan on how to deal with our addictions.

Monday, February 14

Love Those Pounds Away!

In honor of Valentine’s Day today—especially considering most of us will both be eating out and skipping the gym—here’s a few ways you can get to your daily calorie burn and get your lovin’ in at the same time:
Grab your hubby’s hand and go for a walk.  A one-mile leisurely stroll will burn 100 calories for you.
If you add some smooching in during your walk, you can burn 2 calories for each minute you spend lip-locked.
Or the two of you could jump on one of those very romantic two-seater bikes.  With the breeze in your hair, a 30-minute pedal with your love could burn you 150 calories.
Let’s say you happen to ride that two-seater to a secluded romantic spot, a little… ahem… “interlude” would add 30 calories to your daily burn.
I’m splurging for the day and doing pizza and a movie with the husband.  How are you spending your Love Day?

Friday, February 11

Spreading Love… and Healthy Living!

I just heard about an exciting movement this week!  It’s called The 100 Women Project.  Not a super catchy name, but wait until you hear their goal.  It’s a movement being run by a mom and daughter duo.  With daughter’s help, mom lost 90 pounds and has learned how to keep it off.  The duo is determined to help other women accomplish similar goals, and their hope is to create a ripple effect of health and wellness that travels far beyond their initial scope.
Here’s how the program is going to work.  They’re looking for 100 women to join the project.  These women will receive all the tools and support they need on their journey: coaching, nutrition guidance, food recommendations, self-care products, recipes, etc.  Participants will learn how to build sustainably healthy lives.
The project will culminate with a book that will not only celebrate the transformations of this initial 100 women, but will serve as inspiration for other women now embarking on their own transformations of health and wellness.
You can check out their story and other program details at http://www.100womenproject.com/.
I’m really excited about this project, I’ll be following it as they get started in the next couple of months.  It’s motivating to see others succeed in passing on their experiences and knowledge.  I know that my own transformation made me want to share it with others.
I hope you’ll hop by their website and check it out.  Please pass it on to anyone who you think might be interested in becoming a participant!  There aren’t many people in this world just handing out help with good hearts—you need to accept the help in whatever form it comes.

Wednesday, February 9

Packaging Doesn’t Always Equal Junk

With my job having been so crazy lately, grocery shopping has taken a bit of a dive in my priorities.  Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not sticking to my calorie range and eating as well as I should!  That just means I don’t have a lot of fresh food around the house (or time to prepare it, even if I did).  I realized today when I was packing my lunch that I have a kind of emergency supply of pre-packaged healthy foods for just these seasons!
So here are a few of my favorite quick-to-grab, easy-to-make foods:
StarKist Tuna Salad Pouch – I about fell over from shock when I first looked at the nutritional info on these little 3oz pouches.  There are only 100 calories in one pouch, 13g of protein and only 3g of fat!  Seriously, quickest lunch ever: grab two of these pouches and couple whole wheat crackers.
Brothers-All-Natural Fruit Crisps – Since I don’t have any fresh fruit around the house, these little pouches of freeze dried apples, pears, bananas and strawberries are the perfect answer.  Each little pouch of fruit is 40-60 calories of nothing but fruit!  They also help with those crunchy, munchy cravings.  I like getting the big box at Costco, but you can find them most anywhere.
Birds Eye Steamfresh Veggies – I’m sure you’ve already seen these at your grocery store—they’re everywhere!  If you don’t already keep some bags of the steam-in-bag microwave veggies around your house, you need to.  There’s no quicker dinner!  I’ll throw some chicken on to broil (add a very small amount of BBQ or teriyaki sauce on the side) and a bag of these veggies.  Dinner is done in 15 minutes and I got my veggies for the day!
SnackMasters Turkey Jerky – This one is my new favorite snack to go!  I’ve had turkey jerky before, but this SnackMasters brand just tastes amazing.  Their Teriyaki flavor is my favorite, but they also have Hot & Spicy.  Heck, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could try their salmon jerky or ahi tuna jerky!  The turkey jerky is only 70 calories in an ounce, and it’s a quick grab when you’re on the go.
Do you have any favorites in the pre-packaged category?  Does packaging make you nervous?  What are your secret weapons when you’re schedule gets crazy?

Monday, February 7

Bouncing Back!

Well, my beloved Steelers let me down yesterday.  But you can’t win them all!  It was a good game, and—at least at my house—even better food!  I couldn’t resist cooking up a Pittsburgh classic: Kielbasa, pierogies and sauerkraut!  It definitely wasn’t a low-call kind of meal, but I have to let myself go every now and then.
I find that I’m getting much better at bouncing back to my normal routine when I let myself have these little caloric vacations.  I didn’t keep any of the leftovers (I know, my mother would be appalled), and I definitely didn’t force them on any of my guests (my biggest pet peeve ever)!  I did bring the extra cupcakes into work, but frankly it’s just payback for my coworkers who always have junk food sitting around their own desks.  I packed my breakfast and lunch today, and I’ve got my trip to the gym planned for tonight.
When living healthy is your daily routine, it’s not so hard to get back onto the right track if you take a small detour!
If you find that bouncing back is harder than you think it should be, take a look at your daily habits and routines.  Do you find that your own healthy lifestyle is your “normal”?  Or is it less a part of your daily schedule than you realize?
If you’ve made many healthy changes to your own life—and stuck to them for a while—do you find that you can bounce back pretty easily from these kinds of days?

Saturday, February 5

Accentuate the Positive

Here’s a challenge for you.  Find a good mirror and take a look at your face.  Take a long look!  Now write down everything that you see as you’re taking in your reflection.  What kinds of things do you find yourself writing?
Most of us will likely have some of those negative, picky thoughts: I see a pimple; I don’t really like my hair today; there’s my big nose.  Everyone has thoughts like this!  The real question is—does your list only have these kinds of thoughts on it?
Or do you have positive observations mixed in?  I’ve always liked the color of my eyes; thank heavens good skin is genetic in my family; hey, my double chin is gone!  You should have a healthy mix of positive in with any of the negative on your list.  These are the things that say: “Hey, I’m not perfect, but I like me!”
The point of this exercise?  Recently, I’m noticing something in more and more people (ok, mostly women) I speak to about losing weight or getting healthy.  So many people make decisions to get healthy, to get fit, or to lose weight for different reasons.  They have different goals and different motivations.  But many of them have something in common—they think that if they make the changes they’re making, then they will like themselves better.
I’ve got news for you: you’re not going to like yourself any better if you lose 100 pounds.  You’re not going to like yourself better if you can do 100 pushups.  You’re not going to like yourself better even when you’re eating 100 percent healthy foods.
There is always something to not like about ourselves!  If your list is filled with negative self-talk, do you think fixing one thing on the list will grant you life-long happiness?  What if you get to your goal weight and decide it’s not enough?  What if you reach your fitness goal and realize you wanted more?  What if you eat nothing but healthy food but find you’re still addicted to sugar and fat?
If you’re going to find happiness once you reach your goals, then you need to find that happiness now.
Why do you think it’s so hard for us to like ourselves?  I challenge you to not blame the media!  Here, I’ll re-ask this week’s discussion question: Why do you think it’s so hard for YOU to like YOURSELF?

Wednesday, February 2

Oh, Those Dietary Guidelines...

On Monday, the USDA released their 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  My friend Alex, over at I Eat Asphalt, gives a great layman’s breakdown of what changes this announcement entails.  Basically, the USDA is finally taking serious the obesity epidemic that our country is facing.  Most of the changes could simply be summed up as “Eat less and eat nutritiously.”
I’m happy to see the government finally making this step, but I can’t help but feel that they’re still several steps behind the rest of us.  These are their messages to Americans:
Balancing Calories- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
Foods to Reduce- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose the foods with lower numbers.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Please, oh please tell me that your reaction is “No. Duh.  Really USDA?  This is your news flash of 2010?  The saddest part is—if you followed the directions above while eating a 2000 calorie diet, you would only lose weight if you’re seriously overweight.  If I followed that kind of diet, I would gain 35 pounds in a year!
What do you think?  Do you USDA recommendations to guide your own diet choices?  Are they behind the times?

Monday, January 31

BBQ in January!


One of my absolute favorite dinners is shish kabobs!  Kabobs are the perfect dinner because they’re quick, they’re easy and they’re delicious.  They’re a great kind of dinner to get the kids involved with (learning opportunity!).  And it’s just so invigorating to have BBQ when it’s cold and blustery out!
Kabobs are one of those foods where you don’t really need a recipe—just imagination!
I’m a big fan of Teriyaki Kabobs.  I’ll use a lean cut of beef (like filet mignon or top round), zucchini, mushrooms, and green peppers.  Lightly brush some teriyaki sauce over top and you’re good to grill.  If you have calories left for some extra carbs, you can even have a little brown rice on the side.
There are also the classic BBQ Kabobs.  I like BBQ chicken best, but I like to mix it up with snow peas, mushrooms, and asparagus.  I have friends who love to add some pineapple to their BBQ kabobs.
Here in Seattle, you can pretty much grill all year round.  But my parents, buried in snow in Pennsylvania right now, also do a lot of winter grilling.  If you don’t have a grill, your broiler is actually a great way to fake it.  No broiler?  A ridged skillet and some olive oil are all you need.  You’re going to want a very hot heat on the stove.  You don’t want to cook them, you want to sear them.
And it’s a perfect dinner to involve the whole family!  Get the kids to cut veggies (with supervision, of course) or and have them skewer the kabobs.  It’ll be the perfect time to explain why veggies and protein are so important for them.  And I guarantee that kids are far more interested in eating their veggies when they get to see where they came from and how they’re made.
What do you think?  Do you have favorites for your own kabobs?  Or does the sound of winter grilling just make you shiver?

Wednesday, January 26

Ready! Set! Eat?

People, I have discovered one of the most amazing tools ever!  Our friend over at Leaving Fatville turned me on to http://www.readyseteat.com/.  Awesome!  Ok, whether you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight (or just don’t care), this is the perfect website for planning our last minute dinners.
The basics: You tell it how much time you have and what kind of main ingredient you’d like, and then it spits out some quick and easy dinner recipes for you.  You can enter your zip code and select your normal grocery store (so that it can tell you what ingredients are on sale).  AND there’s a “Healthier Recipes” button to filter out the high calorie dinners.
Awesomeness:  The recipes are designed to be quick and simple, but flavorful.  You won’t have to go scrounging for hard-to-find ingredients, and you won’t be spending a fortune.  Once you register on the site, you can rate recipes and find other coupons and offers.
Pitfalls: Even the “Healthier Recipes” aren’t perfect.  If you’re trying to lose weight, the worst thing you could do is just pick one of their healthy recipes and assume the calories are low.  However!  It’s easier than pie to substitute what are obviously paid sponsor foods (like Banquet frozen chicken) and just use plain chicken breast in your recipe.
I can’t even tell you how thrilled I am!  I’ve been in one of those ruts where I’m eating the same five dinners every week.  While that’s ok with Mr. Husband, I’m getting bored and quick.  I can see me using this on the weekends to plan out my meals for the week (so I don’t have to make last minute stops at the store).
Any great suggestions on how to keep dinners simple but creative?  Any weekly timesavers you’ve discovered?  Favorite easy recipes?

Monday, January 24

Skipping the Gym

I was meeting with my trainer the other day—I figured a good way to jumpstart my fitness is a couple weeks of visiting the ol’ trainer—and he was asking me about my weekly schedule.  I gave him a rundown of the classes I like and machines I like on days when I don’t have class.  He asked, “What days are your days off?”  I laughed at him.  I don’t schedule myself days off from working out because they seem to happen all on their own!
Those are the days when you get home from work, having every intention of going to the gym throughout the day, but after cooking dinner you just can’t seem to muster the energy to head back out again.  Often I feel guilty for not making any effort to be active.  That’s why I have a few Plan B’s at home!
One of my favorite at-home activities is video games!  If this sentence takes you by surprise, then you haven’t been paying much attention to what your kids are playing.  My parents have a Wii—my mom loves the Wii Zumba and Wii Fit games.  I got my brother the Wario Smooth Moves game for Christmas and you’d be shocked at the sweat you can build up just paying a simple game.  At our house, we have a new Kinect!  I love the Dance Central game (I can’t dance, but I’m a star!).
I don’t have any machines or weights at home, but I did splurge on a Bosu Ball.  It’s a great tool that I can use for balance, abs, legs, pushups or anything I can think of!  You don’t have to fill your house with fitness aids or bulky machines (that just end up holding your laundry).  But if you pick one tool to keep around, you have a backup plan for those days when you just want to stay in, like a yoga mat, a balance disc, or an exercise band.
What kind of backup plan do you have for when your normal routine gives?  Any favorite DVD workouts?  Have you tried other simple exercises that don’t require any equipment?

Friday, January 21

Diet Food Protest

The lovely Lorrie, over at The Token Fat Girl, posted an interesting personal discovery this week.  She was talking about the differences between “diet food” and “health food.”
She defines “diet food” as anything in a package that has a weight loss claim.  I thought it was a very good description!  These are the foods that you might like or not like, but that we can easily find ourselves gravitating toward in our search for that quick fix weight loss solution.
“Health food,” on the other hand, is what I think Miss Lorrie would describe as anything natural.  It’s safe to say that these are the foods that we all know we should eat every day, but most likely don’t.
Now, we know that any food—however we classify it—can potentially be unhealthy in large amounts.  Avocado is definitely a natural food, but if you choose to each 20 avocados every day you’re certainly not going to lose any weight.  But most of us generally don’t get enough of these “health foods” in our diets every day.
For example, yesterday I decided to only eat like 4 of my Zone protein bars, some Greek yogurt and granola.  Needless to say I desperately need to go grocery shopping.  Calorie-wise, my day was great!  I hit my 1200 calorie goal with no problem.  Nutrition-wise, well…  my day was lacking.
Do you ever feel like you need to strike from your “diet food?”  Does your “diet food” make you feel deprived?  Or do you feel that it helps you not feel deprived?

Monday, January 17

Kings and Queens of Reasoning

It’s Sunday afternoon, and you’re still in your pajamas.  It occurs to you that you should head to the gym at some point in the day.  But you still have the house to tidy up and some laundry to throw in.  Oh, and you were hoping to run to the grocery store, too.  By the time you did that errand, it would be dinner time.  And you had been pretty good with your eating so far in the day, so it was no big deal if you didn’t make it to the gym.
It’s so easy to reason away those things you’ve committed yourself to!  I find reasoning far better than just making excuses.  With excuses, at least you feel a little guilty for your decision.  When you reason your way to a decision, there’s no guilt because you had perfectly good reasons!
But the scary thing is—I reasoned away my need to get to the gym for the entire month of December.
You can reason away your need to eat fewer calories.  You can reason away your need to drink plenty of water.  Saving your money.  Working reasonable hours.  Staying active.  Our commitments and resolutions float away on a river of reasons.
The best way I have found to help fight the urge to reason is to make sure I have rules and routine in place.  Every Monday I attend Body Attack and Fridays are Zumba nights.  As a rule, I try to get to the gym at least four nights a week.  On principle, I never schedule myself off days (because they seem to happen all on their own without me scheduling them).  When you have a rule that can stop you in your reasoning tracks, or a sense of routine that prevents you from even getting to that point where you’re reasoning away your need.
How to you keep yourself on track?  Do you find that once you start making reasons that it gets harder to get back on track?  What do you do to not give yourself room for reasons?

Friday, January 14

Protein Bar Puzzle

There’s a lot of talk out there over protein bars.  They are touted as meal replacements, diet aids, snacks or nutrition supplements.  So what should we do with them?  How do you pick a good one?  Do any good ones even exist, or do they all taste like Styrofoam?
I’m here to help!  Protein bars can be a big part of weight loss and weight maintenance.  You can use them as snacks or meal replacements.  One thing protein bars are not: nutritional.  It doesn’t matter how many vitamins they pack in them, a protein bar cannot replace vegetables and fruits—natural sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  I often use protein bars to replace a breakfast when I know I don’t have time to put anything together or a snack when I know I’m going to be crazy busy at work.
When you’re choosing a protein bar, your choice is going to first be based on the nutritional facts and second on the taste.  When you’re looking at the nutritional facts, what’s the most important number?  Protein!  That’s why it’s called a “Protein Bar!”  You want there to be more grams of protein than fat.  Ideally, there will be 10 grams of protein or more.
Since you’re already comparing your protein number to your fat number, you simply want to make sure there’s as little fat as possible.  There should definitely be less fat than protein.  Ideally, there will be 5 grams of fat or less.
The next number you’re looking for is carbs.  When you start looking at the number of carbs in protein bars, you’re going to be in for a shock.  For the most part, you don’t want any more than 25 grams of carbs.  If more than 50 percent of those carbs is sugar, chances are that you’re not holding a protein bar in your hand.  Say “hello” to the candy bar that snuck its way into that section with fancy words like “nutrition” and “all-natural.”
If you’re following the rules listed above, you’ll get a protein bar that’s between 150 and 200 calories.
I have a list here of bars that I have tried and that actually taste good!
Special K Protein Meal Bar (Strawberry)
170 Calories, 5g Fat, 25g Carb (15g Sugar), 10g Protein
Zone Perfect All-Natural Nutrition Bar (Double Dark Chocolate)
190 Calories, 6g Fat, 22g Carb (14g Sugar), 12g Protein
Luna Bar (Peanut Butter Cookie)
180 Calories, 6g Fat, 26g Carb (11g Sugar), 9g Protein
I’ve tried a lot of protein bars, and some of them are just disgusting!  Have you tried any good ones?  Any we should avoid?  Were you surprised by the nutrition numbers on your own protein bar?

Thursday, January 13

Year of the Happy Medium

I guest posted on Healthy Living Blogs (a fantastic resource for all topics health related)!  It’s my first guest cameo.  I’ve giving a rundown of my New Year’s resolution.  Check it out!

Wednesday, January 12

That Fleeting Good Feeling

During my December eating extravaganza, I pretty much let myself eat anything I wanted to.  I over-ate on several occasions, and I think about ninety percent of my eating was sugar.  I was mostly aware of the choices I was making, but it just felt so good!
When it comes to sugar, I have a very real and very noticeable physical reaction.  I feel good.  I feel happy.  And when that sugar leaves my body, I can feel that, too.  I noticed how quickly my old cycle of sugar high to crash to sugar seeking became habit again.  It’s so very similar to a drug addict seeking their next high.
But the high is never lasting.  It was scary how quickly my body became used to the sugar again.  I would look at a bowl of M&Ms and realize that it wouldn’t be enough to get that good feeling.  I would want the cookies instead.  I would add hot chocolate.  I was eating constantly, but eventually, it wasn’t making a difference in how I felt.
And I didn’t feel energized like I normally do.  I didn’t feel like I could go dancing or run around the block.  I felt comatose.  But gosh darn it—I “felt” good.
It’s interesting how our brains interpret these situations.  Because the sugar was sending endorphins and opioids to my brain, I interpreted it as feeling good.  But when I compared that feeling to my normal state, it wasn’t good.  I didn’t like the way that I felt.
Have you had any moments like this?  Moments when you realize that something you thought you desired wasn’t really anything you wanted?

Monday, January 10

Change It up!

For me, one of the most sure fire ways to keep my workout routine consistent is to keep it fun and challenging.  If you let boredom creep into your routine, every workout will become a fight to stay on track.
Many times we want to change up our habits, but all we do is move from the elliptical machine to the stair master.  We’re afraid of leaving our comfort zone; we bore ourselves into failure!  This year we’re going to be brave!  We are going to do what we’ve never done!
If you’re one of those elliptical machine people (meaning, four days a week you put in your 30 minutes on the same machine), try a group class!  There are plenty of cardio classes that would shock some fun into your schedule, as well as give you an opportunity to work a few other muscle groups.  Zumba classes are everywhere.  I love Les Mills classes—Body Attack, Body Combat and Sh’Bam.
If you’re one of those group class people (meaning, you only attend classes and hate to work out alone), grab a buddy or a trainer and do some strength training!  You might have variety of muscle groups, but you probably don’t have the strength you could.  You’ll see some gigantic men and women in the weight areas, but I promise they are very nice.  Many are more than willing to help you find weights or give you a quick instructional on how to work a machine.
If you’re one of those weight lifting people (meaning, you only bulk up), try a martial arts class or the Les Mills Body Combat.  You’ll find it will let you still work in some strength training (as well as make you feel like there’s a use to all those muscles now) while letting you build in some cardio to your schedule.
And finally, my running friends!  If you’re one of those marathon freaks (meaning, you’re a marathon freak—you know who you are), try anything else!  Many runners have very healthy hearts and keep their weight in check.  The truth is you’re only working out one very small muscle group.  Can you play a game of basket ball or jump on the trampoline with your kids?  Can you help a friend move some furniture or climb a rock wall?
How are you going to change up your routine this year?  What have you been dying to try but always been too afraid?

Friday, January 7

Brown-Bagging It

My coworkers drive me insane.  Everyone complains about their holiday weight gain; yet, everyday at lunch, everyone is asking what restaurant we want to go to.  Every day it is “Who else wants Mexican?” or “Does anyone want Jimmy John’s?” or “Where are you going for lunch?”  I swear I’m just going to start packing them all a lunch every day because I’m tired of it!
It’s tough being that one person brown-bagging it.  But, when it comes down to it, I think my lunches look so much better than anyone else’s!  And my lunches always range from 300 to 450 calories.
One of my favorites is Turkey Teriyaki.  I guarantee you have left over turkey!  Ladies, grab about 4-5 ounces of turkey; guys will probably want 5-6 ounces.  Don’t smother your turkey in teriyaki sauce—measure yourself a serving and keep it on the side.  If you dip your turkey into it, you’re going to eat much less sauce but still get plenty of flavor.  I’ll often take one of those Steam Fresh bags of broccoli and then add a piece of fruit.
A lot of people think you need to eat nothing but salad in order to lose weight.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll notice a significant lack of salads.  However!  Here’s my favorite salad!  Start with some spring greens or spinach.  Add a few slices of grapefruit and tangerines.  Top it off with a small slice of grilled salmon (grill the night before and eat it cold, it’s delicious)!  The flavor combination is fantastic, and you’ll be getting some heart healthy fats into your diet.
Do you ever get to lunch time and just want something sweet?  Kashi makes some fantastic high protein and high fiber cereals.  I like the Almond Flax Crunch because it’s sweetened just enough (and I love Almonds).  Take a cup of cereal and add to a cup of Chobani Greek Yogurt.  They have great flavors—I just tried the pomegranate today, but my favorite is the peach!  They have fat free and 2% options.  It’s a quick way to get a good amount of protein and satisfy that sweet tooth.
Got any good brown bag ideas?  Seen anyone else bring in the kind of packed lunch that makes you wish you hadn’t gone out?

Wednesday, January 5

Creative Resolutions

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately—everyone is on one of two wagons: the Weight-Loss-Resolution Wagon or the Resolutions-Don’t-Help-Anyone Wagon.  But I’ve been seeing a lot of really creative resolutions!
Vicky, my oh-so-sexy Body Attack instructor, is committing to drinking more water.  A friend of mine is going to give another shot at quitting smoking.  My husband hasn’t explicity said so, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to try his darnedest to cut soda out of his day.  Great resolutions that make big steps toward making their lives healthier.
Here are a few more creative resolutions I’ve seen:
  • I will not compare myself to other people.  I will be content with myself, my home and my possessions.
  • I will not be so busy that I do not have spare moments for myself or anyone else.  I will make sure to leave margins in my schedule.
  • I will read 30 books in 2011 (and magazines don’t count but graphic novels totally do).
  • I will not acquire any new debt in 2011.
  • I will not eat any fast food.  I will either eat at home or be discerning with the places I do choose to eat out at.
Some of these creative resolutions could potentially have a greater impact on your life (and your weight) than simply a resolution to lose weight.  Have you seen any other interesting resolutions?  Have you thought about adjusting your own resolutions?

Monday, January 3

Your Beginning!

Welcome to 2011!  The holidays are behind us, and we’re staring down a fresh start.  I love a clean slate!  And I don’t care who you are—we all need a clean slate right now.  Whether you’re a size 2 or a 26, you’re a couple pounds heavier than you were at the beginning of October.
So here we are armed with our resolutions.  We’re ready to go!  We’re committed!  And we’ve been here before…
Anyone remember their 2010 resolutions?
This year, we’re going to do some reflection over our resolutions and set ourselves up for success!
1)      Is my resolution too lofty?  I didn’t want to ask if it was “realistic” or “attainable.”  If your resolution is to lose 100 pounds, you can and are capable of doing that.  But when you set your first goal too high, you guarantee yourself a struggle in reaching it.  Make your goal easy!  Set yourself to lose 5 pounds.  You’ll reach it quickly and can set your next goal at 10 pounds.  Give yourself room for momentum.
2)      Is my resolution really my goal?  Do you really want to lose 5 pounds, or do you want to feel better about yourself?  Maybe your goal is really to feel physically fit or to be able to run up the stairs without being winded.  All these goals have very different ways of getting there.  And you may work at your resolution, but never feel the happiness you could if you actually accomplish your real goal.
3)      Can I see myself achieving my resolution?  If you can’t visualize it, you’ll never get there.  We don’t realize how much we hold ourselves back!  When you reach your goal, it may be completely different from how you even imagined (I could never have truly imagined my life as it is now).  But you need to be able to see yourself reaching that finish line—the subconscious knowledge that you can and will.
What are your resolutions?  Do you plan on adjusting your resolution at all?  January 3 isn’t too late to do a little midcourse correction.  Share your resolution and book mark this page—visit back to remind yourself of your real goals.

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