Exercise: Not Too Much, Not Too Little

Making the decision to change your health habits is easy. Most of us do it over and over, but COMMITTING to the health habits, well that’s the struggle, isn’t it?

This week we talked about exercise–the rewards of exercise, as well as the challenges to exercise. If losing weight and keeping it off is your goal, you’ll have to make peace with exercise. This means you must do some soul searching to discover which types of activities you will benefit from and stick with. Exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight.

In my professional opinion, exercise is overplayed as a method to lose weight.  Exercise truly has remarkable health benefits, but the bulk of attention initially should be given to nutrition, habits and behavior change strategies.

My simple formula for weight loss is this:

  • Cut calories–the exact number can be determined using predictive equations, but we take it a step further and use the Korr Reevue Metabolic analyzer to determine your exact kilocalorie needs for weight loss (or maintenance if that’s your goal).
  • Use a simple meal plan, either using whole foods, meal replacements, or a mixture of both. Short term nutrition goals for weight loss are specific and a structured plan helps. Ironically, less variety and options helps.
  • Moderate intensity exercise with an emphasis on building or maintaining lean muscle tissue.
  • Dig deep and identify what your TRUE goals are regarding weight loss. Weight loss requires a tremendous amount of persistent effort and it’s crucial to get clear about WHY you want it. It’s ok to be flexible and adapt goals along the way.
  • Build support. You may need to limit time spent with some people, and you certainly need to find new health buddies to support and encourage your health behaviors.
  • Commit to meeting with your health coach on a regular basis, and especially long-term
  • Understand that weight loss isn’t about a diet. It’s about a thorough lifestyle change that affects body, soul, mind and spirit.

Moderate exercise is my recommendation during the calorie cutting phase. Denying oneself of pleasurable food does not come naturally to most Americans and so the initial focus is on adjusting the nutrition for that individual. Cutting calories is essential for weight loss, but this doesn’t mean a person has to be starved.  There’s a proper way to cut calories that ensures the person feels satisfied.  Much fine-tuning is required to provide a personalized approach to weight loss.  Remember:  no one diet is right for every person.

At some point in the weight loss journey, a person will start to plateau. This is the proper time to consider increasing exercise intensity, or amount, or both. A trainer or a supportive fitness environment can help tremendously at this stage, but I recommend they continue to follow up with their nutrition coach.  At this stage, we may do metabolic testing again to ensure their calorie needs are on target. Monthly body composition testing ensures the person is losing fat, and not precious muscle.

Exercise is key in maintaining a healthy weight, but exercise should not be used in a disordered way to make up for lack of appropriate nutrition. I love the many facets of nutrition, but when it comes to weight loss, the number one challenge for people is to eat the appropriate amount of calories for their needs. The proper formula for weight loss will vary some with each client, but practice, patience and the right support is key.  Nutrition and Exercise should compliment each other and there should be an element of balance for both. This does not mean that exercise should always be easy, but it means the person should balance nutrition with the proper amount and type of exercise, while also managing stress and getting adequate sleep. Do these 4 things well and success is yours!

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Nutrition Solutions

Meal Planning IS the Magic Bullet

 

Health-solutions-upstate-genteic testing-metabolic

This week was ALL ABOUT MEAL PLANNING.  We talked about food, strategies, time management and we wrapped it up with a visit at Trader Joe’s.  The thing about meal planning is that it’s not “sexy.”  It doesn’t get enough attention for the fact that IT IS THE BEST WAY TO ENSURE WEIGHT LOSS.  Sure it’s ok to eat out every once in a while, but most Americans are completely reliant on fast-food and convenience foods.  A fast-food diet kills, slowly but surely.  Rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity (which is a disease by the way) have all soared over the last few decades.  I don’t think anyone chooses to be overweight, but if they go with the flow, the choice will be made for them.  We always say in class:  If you are going to commit to a healthy lifestyle, you will be going counter culture.  Nowhere is that more true than here in the southern part of the States.

What’s the secret to meal planning?  The secret is that there is no secret.  You just do it.  MEAL. PLAN. EVERY. DAY.  But there are a few tricks to save you time. Eventually, you will get to the point where meal prep is just another chore like bathing or brushing your teeth (Am I inspiring you yet!)  There’s nothing too fancy about meal planning, but you know you have to do it.  Not brushing your teeth for a week is not an option, really.  You have to get to the point where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired and you decide to do something about it.  Please let meal planning be the one thing that you commit to.

Here’s some tips:

  • Limit Variety During The Week To Save Time And Money. This means the core of what you eat everyday remains the same, but you can make changes to the seasonings or sides.  Core items in my diet include eggs, egg whites, Wild Alaska Salmon, Cod, Chunk Light Tuna and Tempeh.  To this protein base, I add vegetables and I usually stick to spinach, kale, riced Cauliflower and Green Beans.  Occasionally I have ½ of a baked sweet potato or homemade keto bread.  Snacks include low-fat plain yogurt, berries and a nut butter, a poached egg or a protein bar.  Weekends are fairly similar, but I may have something a little more savory for dinner.
  • Prep And Cook In Bulk On The Weekends. (or your least busy day). If Sunday is your meal prep day, then you’ll have to make sure your grocery shopping is done by the day before.  For me, this means I have to put the frozen fish in the refrigerator on Friday or Saturday in order for it to be thawed.
  • Have The Right Tools For The Right Job. You’ll need make sure your kitchen tools are easily accessible.  Tools that I use each week include a vegetable steamer, a toaster oven, an iron skillet, a large skillet, a baking stone, a Nutribullet and of course, a coffee maker.  Everything I use is stored strategically close to my cooking area.  In addition to cookware, an often neglected aspect of meal prep is Tupperware and a large insulated lunch bag.  Remember, you’ll be cooking anywhere from 2-5 servings to last you throughout the week and most of your meals won’t be eaten at home.  You’ll have to find a system that works for you.  For me this means I cook on Sundays and Tuesday evenings since I work Monday through Thursday.
  • Know your grocery store and get in and get out. Stick to your grocery list and try to avoid impulse purchases.  If you can limit variety, then your grocery shopping experience will be quick and easy because you’ll be eating the same core foods each week.  This recommendation is not a popular one, but unless you have extra time to plan, purchase and prepare a new menu each week, it’s really your best option.  The number one reason people don’t prepare their own meals is because of perceived lack of time.

Some final pointers—

The core of a healthy eating plan is one that emphasizes whole foods in their mostly natural state.  It should be low in added sugars, refined carbohydrates and saturated fat.  Feel free to go sugar-free, but don’t replace it with artificial sweeteners,  It’s worth mentioning that your meal plan should also be calorically balanced with the appropriate macro and micronutrients for your individual needs.  Eating healthy and losing weight are not necessarily the same strategies.  One common mistake people make is that they commit to eating healthy, but they still eat too much.  This is tough for Americans. We were raised in the “clean your plate club.”

Don’t have time to cook?  No problem. Let our Chef James prepare your meals.  Click here to order chef meals prepared daily.  Order them just the way you like.  We’re the only company locally that has meals created by a dietitian and a chef.  That means our meals are perfectly portions in calories and macro balanced.

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Losing Weight.. And Keeping It Off

Weekly Class Overview:  “Ongoing Weight Management”

Losing weight is challenging; Keeping it off is even harder.
Most diets will work for short-term weight loss and really, you have so many options to choose from. Essentially, it should be a whole-foods plan that cuts calories.  Calorie restriction must be a component of the weight loss plan–exercise alone won’t produce much weight loss for most people. There is considerable controversy regarding the Low-Fat vs Low-Carb approach to weight loss, but I tend to advocate for lower carb and lower fat, with a higher emphasis on good quality lean proteins and lots of vegetables.  Another approach that works for more aggressive weight loss is the use of meal replacements.  Meal replacements can be effective when used within a program that utilizes the skills of a registered dietitian and team of professionals.

Enough of the nutrition talk. That’s the easy part. By far the most challenging part to weight management has to do with habits, rewards, environment and lifestyle factors.  In my opinion, enemy number one is the environment and culture into which most of us live.  Our culture itself is toxic to our health.  In most cases, fast, cheap, high calorie food is readily available whereas healthy, nutritious foods are often out of reach for many.  Many cities lack the proper infrastructure to encourage movement, and our work is mostly sedentary.  Our environment actually promotes sedentary behavior and poor food choices.  Think about that for a minute!  Not enough attention is given to the role of the environment.  Individuals looking to lose or maintain weight MUST arrange their world for success.  Meal planning must become priority.  Physical activity must become a priority.  Managing stress and sleeping well must become a priority.  First, a person must recognize the extreme importance of self-care and arrange their environment in a way that supports the health behaviors they need to succeed.

Finally, any good plan must be supported.  Build your team with expert nutritionists, fitness trainers, counselors or psychologists and culinary experts.  Build your friend base to include friends who want to do active things, and friends that are making health and nutrition choices that you wish to emulate.  What are the health habits of those around you?  Do these people have health, vibrancy and energy?  Do they live to eat, or eat to live?  You are a product of those people you spend the most time with.  Don’t believe me? Test it out.  Look at the 5 people that you spend the most time with.  If you are struggling to maintain your healthy habits, look no further than your peers, friends, family and coworkers.  Either you must be the change you wish to see, or you will have to set appropriate boundaries.

Check back often.  We love to do cooking classes and we love to be out at grocery stores, teaching people how to shop smart.  Here’s our schedule:  Nutrition Solutions Schedule

 

Meal Prep Like A Pro

Time is a precious commodity, but that doesn’t mean your health should suffer.  As a nutrition professional, I practice what I preach to my clients.  Every Sunday I commit time to planning my meals for the week.  My goals of nutrition are simple and straightforward—food provides my body with fuel, nutrients and the substances needed to fight inflammation and disease.  My secondary goal is to eat foods I enjoy.  Over the years I’ve learned to stay away from highly processed foods that are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates and I encourage clients to do the same.

Meal prep is everything, but it does NOT need to be time consuming.  Here are some of my top strategies for busy professionals (moms included):

  • Limit Variety During The Week To Save Time And Money. This means the core of what you eat everyday remains the same, but you can make changes to the seasonings or sides.  Core items in my diet include eggs, egg whites, Wild Alaska Salmon, Cod, Chunk Light Tuna and Tempeh.  To this protein base, I add vegetables and I usually stick to spinach, kale, riced Cauliflower and Green Beans.  Occasionally I have ½ of a baked sweet potato or homemade keto bread.  Snacks include low-fat plain yogurt, berries and a nut butter, a poached egg or a protein bar.  Weekends are fairly similar, but I may have something a little more savory for dinner.
  • Prep And Cook In Bulk On The Weekends. (or your least busy day). If Sunday is your meal prep day, then you’ll have to make sure your grocery shopping is done by the day before.  For me, this means I have to put the frozen fish in the refrigerator on Friday or Saturday in order for it to be thawed.
  • Have The Right Tools For The Right Job. You’ll need make sure your kitchen tools are easily accessible.  Tools that I use each week include a vegetable steamer, a toaster oven, an iron skillet, a large skillet, a baking stone, a Nutribullet and of course, a coffee maker.  Everything I use is stored strategically close to my cooking area.  In addition to cookware, an often neglected aspect of meal prep is Tupperware and a large insulated lunchbag.  Remember, you’ll be cooking anywhere from 2-5 servings to last you throughout the week and most of your meals won’t be eaten at home.  You’ll have to find a system that works for you.  For me this means I cook on Sundays and Tuesday evenings since I work Monday through Thursday.
  • Know your grocery store and get in and get out. Stick to your grocery list and try to avoid impulse purchases.  If you can limit variety, then your grocery shopping experience will be quick and easy because you’ll be eating the same core foods each week.  This recommendation is not a popular one, but unless you have extra time to plan, purchase and prepare a new menu each week, it’s really your best option.  The number one reason people don’t prepare their own meals is because of perceived lack of time.

Some final pointers—

The core of a healthy eating plan is one that emphasizes whole foods in their mostly natural state.  It should be low in added sugars, refined carbohydrates and saturated fat.  It’s worth mentioning that your meal plan should also be calorically balanced with the appropriate macro and micronutrients for your individual needs.  This is not to say that everyone’s meal plan will look the same, but we start with general recommendations and then fine-tune throughout the one-one-one visits.

So there you have it.  I’ve shared my secrets on meal prep and I’m sure by this point you’re thinking, “that’s it? –that’s so boring!”  It’s true.  There is nothing sexy about the daily grind of preparing your food.  I wish it were because then it would be an easy sell.  As it is, meal prep is a daily habit, similar to taking a shower or brushing your teeth.  It’s not always glamorous, but it needs to be done.

Nutrition Solutions exists to help people eat better.  Too busy to do your own meal prep? Let our chef do it for you!

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Nutrition Science 101

The study of Nutrition is a science; The application of nutrition is an art.  The wonderful thing about nutrition is that eating right for your body doesn’t require any special knowledge or training.  Humans have an intuitive ability to know what their body needs, and yet, most of us aren’t listening.  Many people tend to be obsessed with fad diets and nutrition facts, and yet lack an overall appreciation or understanding of the affects that whole foods have on their health.  They may “major in the minors” when it comes to nutrition and “miss the forest for the trees.”  An example might be avoiding gluten, while neglecting areas such as over-consumption of foods and physical inactivity.  Four major areas to investigate with weight loss are nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep, but let’s start with a super basic review of nutrition.

Calories

  • In human nutrition, calories are needed by the body to do work
  • Individual needs vary depending on age, sex, size, genetics and activity levels
  • They are neither bad, nor good, but simply a way of measuring the amount of energy a food provides us

Calorie expenditure is divided between resting metabolic rate, thermic effect of foods (energy used for the digestion of food), non-exercise activity and exercise. Our muscles and organs are the biggest consumers of calories at rest.

Macronutrients

  • Nutrients that provide calories or energy
  • Nutrients are substances needed for growth, metabolism, and for other body functions
  • Needed in large amounts

Carbohydrates*— Generally, should comprise ~45-65% of daily caloric intake. Provide 4 calories/gm. Slow carbs are low-glycemic load and fast carbs are high-glycemic load.

Protein—Generally, should comprise ~20-30% of daily caloric intake. Provide 4 calories/gm. 

Fat—Generally, should comprise ~15-30%. Provide 9 calories/gm. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products, whereas unsaturated fats are primarily sourced from plants.

Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring chemicals that provide plants with color, odor and flavor. They contribute greatly to our health by fighting inflammation, free radical damage and they also help to balance our hormones.

Right now many individuals are starting to understand that a calorie is not a calorie.  In fact, different foods have different effects on the body and with genetic testing more widely available, we know that no two people respond to the same diet in the same way.  That’s why it’s important to get a nutrition plan specifically tailored for you.  If you are interested in working with a registered dietitian who can write a nutrition plan for you, click here.  Dietitians are uniquely qualified to prescribe specific nutrient recommendations and it can be highly worth your time.

 

 

Have you tried the You diet?

No doubt, you’ve tried countless diets over the years in an effort to shed a few pounds or to improve your health.  Fad diets are easy to spot once you know what to look for.  They speak to our need for control when everything is out of control.  Fad diets are an attractive option because they seem to make logical sense, that is, until you do some actual research from an unbiased source.  Here’s what you need to know:  THERE IS NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR HEALTH.  There’s no magical formula that will get you the results you want.  You can’t follow your trainer’s diet and expect to get the same results.   The magic happens when you figure out what you need to be successful, but don’t think it all has to be done on your own.  It can be highly worth your time and money to seek the support of a registered dietitian as you work through the stages of change.

A sound nutritional plan will always include lots of vegetables, lean proteins and whole foods, while being low in sugar, refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods.  If you seek better health through better nutrition, you should know that the answer isn’t “out there.”  Instead, the answers you need lie within you—specifically, in the mass between your two ears.  The question often is not what should I eat, but rather how can I make it happen.  Diets fail for lack of proper planning.

If that overly simplistic explanation doesn’t quite motivate you, there is another tool that can help.  Nutritional genetic testing looks at your individual genetic makeup which determines how you may respond to specific nutrients.  It’s called nutrigenomics and it reinforces the idea that no one person responds equally to the same diet.  Instead of bouncing from one fad diet to the next, you can be tested and the results will be reviewed with you by a trained professional.  Likely this person will be a dietitian and they will counsel you on the appropriate nutritional strategies for you.  If you are interested in learning more about this testing, schedule and appointment by clicking here

Metabolic Testing: Key For Weight Loss?

by Christy Strouse, RDN, CPT  

How Metabolic Testing Can Help You To Lose Weight

Metabolic testing is an important first step when deciding to lose weight.  It can also help with overcoming the dreaded weight loss plateau.  Instead of estimating calorie needs (guessing), metabolic testing allows the practitioner to measure the RMR, also known as Resting Metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy (calories) the body consumes at rest.  This is accomplished by having the client rest comfortably while having them breath through a tube connected to the metabolic analyzer.  The machine measures the amount of oxygen the person is burning at rest and this is directly related to the amount of calories they are burning.  From there, it determines calorie ranges for weight loss, weight maintenance and weight gain.

More Than A Tool

Having the right calorie prescription for weight loss is the critical first step in providing individualized nutrition programming.  If your goal is weight loss, ideally you will be using this information while working with a registered dietitian in a comprehensive program designed for YOU.  We can’t stress enough the importance of having the right support as you embark on these new changes.  Simply having your metabolic numbers won’t automatically translate into actionable steps.  It’s not for a lack of information that people struggle to lose weight and keep it off.  Weight loss that is sustainable requires the right info (calorie and individualized program), with the right support and the right strategies.  Combine all of that with the person’s intrinsic motivation for change and that is the recipe for a transformed life.

We at Nutrition Solutions love what we do and we partner with people ready for lifestyle change.  If that’s you and you are interested in finding out who we are and what we do, click here and we’ll have someone reach out to you.

 

Is it worth it?

A vibrant life has many advantages. Lasting energy, protection against disease and quality of life are just a few.  Having great health doesn’t just happen, though.  It requires an investment of time, energy and resources, but most would agree that the payoff is worth the investment.

I have spent most of my adult life working with individuals on health goals and I’ve come to realize that their action, or inaction, lies in the strength of their motivation.  Too often, people lack specific information that provokes the right amount and type of motivation.  Generic goals such as “weight loss” or “better health” aren’t compelling enough to initiate or sustain change.  Most theories suggest setting SMART goals which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, and this certainly isn’t a bad place to start, however, I find that this formula does very little to stir people to action.  Wanting to be fit, for example, won’t magically make it any easier to get out of bed in the morning for exercise.  Setting a SMART goal for your blood sugar targets doesn’t make meal planning any more glamorous.  The fact of the matter is that achieving goals requires good old fashioned hard work and effort, and at the end of the day, you need to feel rewarded for your efforts.  It’s psychology 101.

YES, BUT WHY?
Goals are not enough.  As I said, even if a person does set SMART goals, this does not necessarily motivate them for action.  The only treatment for lack of motivation is understanding the “why” behind the desired change.  Do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to lose weight?  What will losing weight allow you to do?  Do you want to be fit?  Why do you want to be fit?  There are easily hundreds of different questions a person can ask themselves when they start digging in and asking the hard questions.  Eating vegetables is good for your health, but what if I told you that eating a rainbow of colored vegetables every day helped your body to fight inflammation, cancer and disease?  What if I told you that the food you eat could either fight disease or promote disease in your body? What if I told you that your genes are not your destiny, but that your lifestyle choices determined the fate of your health?  These are the types of questions and answers that motivates people to change.  Having information is not enough.  In order for a lifestyle change to occur, a person MUST ask the hard questions.  They must go deep and return with the answers to these hard questions that are unique to only them.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE REWARDS
Healthy habits should be rewarding and not punishing. The mindset must change from, “I have to workout” to “I get to workout.”  When saying “no thank you” to the person pushing you junk food, understand it’s not that you CAN’T have it, but that you are CHOOSING NOT TO.  That’s the big difference between being on a diet and a lifestyle change.  The former is about deprivation; the latter involves choice and the choice is, and has always been yours. When people change behaviors, they only do so because they recognize the rewards of the new behavior.  They shift from seeking instant gratification, to seeking long-term rewards and satisfaction.  It’s about empowerment.  No longer having to take medications for your diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol because your doctor says you no longer need them is rewarding.  Being able to get on the floor to play with your grand kids is rewarding. Enjoying food you prepared that is both nourishing and pleasing is rewarding.  People who have successful lost weight and kept it off have connected with the many rewards of a changed lifestyle.  In the end, it’s not about the number on the scale, and when they’re honest, they’ll tell you that it never really was. After deep reflection and a lot of wrestling, most people will say that the reason they finally opted for a lifestyle change is because they wanted a freedom that they didn’t have.  So don’t ever feel ashamed or discouraged, and don’t shy away from asking the hard questions.  Seek the truth, and you shall find it, but don’t forget to grab an extra dose of support and encouragement because you’ll need it along the way.

Stress Management for Weight Loss

This week we discussed the numerous ways in which stress affects a person’s eating and exercising habits.  We had a great discussion, but I feel we were only able to scratch the surface since so many of us live in a chronically stressed state.  For some of us, living with stress is the only way to live and to rid ourselves of stress would seem dull and unnatural.  In our culture, stress is glorified.  Stress is king.  Stress is how stuff gets done!  But here’s the thing:  If you want great health, you’ll have to make a commitment to manage the stress in your life differently.  If you want to lose weight or maintain your weight, chronic stress is public enemy number one.

Stress vs Chronic Stress
Our bodies stress response is actually a wonderful invention.  When our body perceives a threat, our endocrine and nervous system work together at a lighting fast speed to alert us to the danger.  We get a surge of hormones and chemicals that enable us to take immediate action.  Our pupils dilate, our heart beats fast and blood gets diverted to the large muscles of the body and this just might save your life.  This is called the acute stress response, otherwise known as “Fight-or-flight.”  Once the perceived threat is over, the body returns to a more balanced state.  Chronic stress, on the other hand, is what happens when the body stays in that stress response state.

Chronic Stress & Your Weight
The stress response affects your health habits both directly and indirectly.  Stress increases hunger hormones, which leads to increased appetite and cravings.  It also decreases your satiety hormones so that you don’t feel satisfied when you do eat.  Increased cortisol has been correlated with increased visceral adiposity— “belly fat”—which is particularly risky in terms of inflammation and disease.  This is the shortened version of what happens.  For a more detailed version, visit here.  Sometimes it’s good to have a little background info on what is happening from a biological standpoint so that you can develop effective strategies.  Too often people assume that they have a lack of willpower or discipline when the truth is that chronic stress is highjacking their biology.

Stress causes us to reach for comfort foods as a way to medicate the brain.  We crave high sugar, high fat and salty foods because that provides the instant gratification that we both crave and have been programmed to enjoy.  From a very early age, our brains learned to associate sweet and savory foods with rewards.  If we had good behavior, we were rewarded with a cookie.  If we were sad, depressed, happy or mad, we were given food to cope.  You may not remember all of the ways that food was used to medicate, but the brain does.  When we are stressed, we don’t reach for grilled fish and broccoli.  No, we reach for the foods that will provide us with that quick boost in mood and energy.  We fail to remember that the food never really solves our problems, but actually creates more problems in the long-term.

Chronic stress also means we don’t have time to arrange our world for success.  When we’re stressed, we are thinking about the here and now and we’re not taking time to nurture ourselves through proper diet and exercise.  We’re also not likely getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, which further feeds this vicious cycle of stress.

Strategies for Reducing the Stress
In many cases, it is possible to avoid stress all together.  In other instances, you can adapt or alter your response to it.  Stress is not something that happens to us, but rather it is how we perceive it.  It’s the classic serenity prayer:  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Brain Food and Exercise
Last, but not least, consider diet and exercise as part of the solution.  Your diet is either feeding disease or fighting disease and it’s up to you to choose foods that heal.  Learning to bypass junk food and choosing nourishing foods instead is a process that may take some time.  Junk food provides instant gratification, whereas most nourishing foods provide sustained health benefits.  A healthy diet need not be complicated.  Find a system that works for you and stick with it.  Your diet should consist of whole, natural foods and should include plenty of vegetables, lean proteins and fruit as a dessert.  Reduce or eliminate added sugar in your diet by reading labels and ingredients.  In terms of exercise, the mantra is, “Just do it.”  The best exercise regimen is the one that you actually do.  Exercise is a one-two punch for stress and weight management.  Exercise, of course, is a way to manage weight by burning energy, but it’s also the treatment for relieving stress.  When we exercise, our body releases chemicals that calm us and makes us feel good.  Think of exercise as a way to burn off the harmful effects of stress—a way to decrease the amount of cortisol floating around in our bloodstream.

If you’re tired of jumping from one diet to another, look closely at the sources of stress in your life.  Can you avoid, alter or adapt?  Yes, you can. But it requires that you first take an honest assessment, and more importantly, take deliberate action to reduce the impact of stress in your life.   More tips found here:  http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax

Creating a Wellness Vision & Goal Setting

I have the privilege of working with a diverse group of people who have this one thing in common—they want to lose weight and get healthy.  They know where they want to be, but they see the value in getting support in helping them reach those goals.  Most people are quite familiar with goals.  It’s drilled into our brain from an early age to set and achieve goals.  Some may even be familiar with setting “SMART” goals—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.  What is poorly understood, however, is how to set process goals, short-term goals and how to create systems that enable them to reach their long-term goals.  The problem with outcome or long-term goals is that they merely provide direction, but do not by themselves lead to actionable steps.  In fact, I have seen long-term goals have the opposite of the intended effect on a person’s behavior and motivation.  It’s easy to get discouraged when a long-term goal is so far off that it seems nearly impossible to reach.  That’s why it’s important to understand the detailed steps involved in helping a person reach their goals. We call this the process.

Convincing yourself to change

Before embarking on a life-changing journey, it’s necessary to reflect on WHY you want to do it.  Dig deep and take time to reflect on why you want what you want, and how you will get there. Some common goals such as “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to get healthy” are too vague and generic.  This is where I might probe a little further and encourage the client to reflect on specific reasons why they want to be healthier or lose weight.  Change is hard.  When the going gets tough, it’s too easy to stay the same.  Of course, “easy” is a relative term.  Even if a person knows that their health is suffering, staying the same is at least familiar.

 Focus on the process and the outcome will follow.

Process goals are steps you take to reach your long-term goal.  If you want to get fit, your process goal might be to walk every day, but even that’s too vague.  How long will you walk?  What will your intensity be? What are the barriers involved in this process—time, energy, weather?  Process goals aren’t mysterious, but in order to set achievable goals, it’s imperative that a person understands all of the details involved.  For example, if you set a goal of running 3 times a week, you need to know that your mind and body might not be thrilled to follow through on that just because you made the decision.  You will need to arrange your world (set up a system) so that the behavior occurs without much thought.  That behavior needs to be encouraged by a system that allows it to occur through automation, rather than willpower.  The body prefers to be lazy.  Being lazy (conserving energy) was an evolutionary advantage at one time.  We know that we will feel better and reap the rewards of the exercise once it’s completed, but that does little to motivate us initially.

Set yourself up for success by creating a system.

If you have a goal of exercising 3 times a week, here’s an example of how to set up a system to ensure that actually happens:

  • First, you prepare by getting everything ready the day before. If you are working during the week, as I do, you will make sure that all your meals, snacks and water bottles are prepared and ready to go.  You will make sure that your gym bag is packed with your work clothes, shoes and any necessary toiletries.
  • You will set out your workout clothes for quick grab and go.
  • You will set out your running shoes, as well as socks so that you can put them on in a hurry.
  • You will avoid any stimulants that night such as caffeine, large meals, social media or television so that you can get quality zzzzzzz’s
  • You will go to bed on time so that you get 7-9 hours of sleep.

When the morning arrives, the only decision you need to make is to start the first step of the process.  If you set yourself up correctly, everything falls into plan because you created the system to work that way.  When you do this enough times, it becomes a habit, and then eventually, hopefully, a ritual.  Everything hinges on how the previous day goes and that’s where many people neglect to plan.  Having a workout routine does not just happen on the day you decide to workout.  The routine begins in the 24 hours prior to that.  The other caveat to making this system work is that you must manage other aspects of your life so that stress and lack of sleep do not interfere with your process.  The number one challenge for most people is time management.  Most people I know suffer from chronic stress and sleep deprivation and therefore, the above system seems like such an enormous feat.  It’s all about choices and we all have the same 24 hours in the day. How do you manage it? That’s a good question for each one of us to reflect on.

Controlling the future?

Placing too heavy of a focus on the outcome can delay action (not to mention happiness) by causing a person to focus only on some future event.  Although long-term goals are helpful at directing, they may also prevent people from focusing their energies on factors that are entirely within their control.  If you were to sign up for a 26.2 mile marathon, you would hold that goal in your mind, but the real control lies in your training schedule.  You plan to finish, but the fact is that you have little control over that outcome; however, the months and months of physical training and nutrition are almost certainly within your control.

Commit to a process and surround yourself with the right people.

Systems and processes work.  Focus on your daily habits and rituals and the desired outcome will follow.  You may not see the whole staircase, but you can deliberately choose to put one foot in front of the other and adjust your steps as needed.  Another often neglected aspect in goal-setting is that of support.  Weight loss should never be a solo sport.  It’s an endurance event, without a finish line and it’s important to surround yourself with others who have behaviors you wish to emulate.  Support may mean that you have to develop new friendships and relationships, and let go of ones that hinder your growth.  It’s a painful reality, but your behaviors are a sum of the behaviors of the people you share your time with.  Are your friends and family inviting you for walks, yoga or bike rides?  Or are they pushing you for margarita’s and Mexican because it’s been a hard day?  Who you spend your time with most certainly determines how successful you will be, unless you are lucky to be one of those magnificently stubborn people—a born leader.  Most people tend to conform to the behaviors of those around them and that’s why I encourage my clients to build a robust support system.

There are so many wonderful articles on this subject, but I pulled a lot of idea’s for this post from James Clear http://jamesclear.com/goals-systems.  I highly encourage visiting his website for wonderful information about habits and goal-setting.